AZUSA, Calif. -- The Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team has released its schedule, and if past performance is any indication the Cougars will be tested all season.
“I think it’s a great schedule. It sets up for us to challenge ourselves early,” said Head Coach TJ Hardeman
“We’ll have the rest of the year to improve. We have a lot of new players and it will take some practice and performance under pressure to see who will do what in a given situation.”
The defending NAIA national champions open up on the road with two straight NCAA Division I exhibitions. In the first game Azusa Pacific squares off with an Arizona State team that qualified for the women’s tournament a season ago and has made two Elite Eight appearances since 2007.
After their bout with the Sun Devils the Cougars will travel north to Flagstaff, Ariz., to take on the Lumberjacks of NAU.
“It’s fun when you feel like there’s no losing involved,” said Hardeman of the Arizona exhibition trip. “It’s kind of a barometer. It’s a good check for the girls to see where they measure up.”
The regular season kicks off Nov. 17 with a rematch of last year’s NAIA quarterfinal contest in which Azusa Pacific defeated Lubbock Christian (Texas) 79-54 to advance to the semifinals.
It will be the first visit to the Azusa Pacific campus for the Lady Chaps since their 87-80 win over the Cougars in 1993. On Nov. 18 Wayland Baptist (Texas) brings its 2-0 record over the Cougars to the Felix Event Center.
The tough schedule continues as Azusa Pacific welcomes Lewis-Clark State for a post-Thanksgiving battle on Nov. 25. The two teams met at the Biola Classic last season with the Warriors taking a 10-point win.
Azusa Pacific begins GSAC play on Nov. 29 at Westmont before coming home for a contest with Hope International on Dec. 3. After the team’s brief stint in conference play they will fly to Kentucky for two games against top-tier NAIA programs.
On Dec. 9 the Cougars will match up with a Campbellsville (Ky.) squad that won two games in the NAIA tournament to reach the quarterfinals in 2011.
The following night Azusa Pacific will have a rematch with a Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) team that nearly knocked the Cougars out of the NAIA tournament last season. Azusa Pacific narrowly defeated the Blue Raiders 71-67
despite a 23-point, 19-rebound effort from Lindsey Wilson’s then-sophomore Ashley Rainey.
After the Kentucky trip the Cougars will enjoy a two-week Christmas break before participating in the three-day Biola Holiday Classic which begins on Dec. 28. The three-game slate will include first-time matchups with Cal State San Marcos and College of the Ozarks, as well as a game against the Orediggers of Montana Tech.
Azusa Pacific’s first contest of 2012 will be a home clash with rival Biola on Jan 3. The Cougars will then run through the remainder of the GSAC for the last time in hopes to grab a high seed for the GSAC Tournament, which begins Feb. 29.
The NAIA national tournament begins March 14, where the Cougars hope they’ll be to defend their NAIA crown.