TEMPE, Ariz.-- The defending nationals champions went into Thursday night’s exhibition against Arizona State with nothing to lose and everything to gain as they broke in five new players and four new starters. And even though they lost 66-35 on the road in Wells Fargo Arena, there were plenty of things to be positive about.
“We knew we were leaving the weekend 0-0 regardless,” said head coach TJ Hardeman about the team’s exhibitions against NCAA Div. I opponents Arizona State and Northern Arizona. “But we did some nice things and we’ll take a lot from it.”
The Cougars, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA preseason coaches poll, shot just 21.1 percent from the field and turned the ball over 24 times, resulting in 32 Sun Devil points. Azusa Pacific recorded only eight points in the paint while ASU got over half of its buckets in the lane.
“It was a physical game. The refs were letting both teams play and I think they were more accustomed to that type of game,” said Hardeman.
But the story of the night for the Cougars, as can be summed up by the first possession, was missed opportunities.
After winning the opening tip Amber Williams had a jumper rejected. After recovering the ball Rebecca Roehrkasse missed a layup, which was followed by a missed three by Briana Hall.
On the next possession ASU got two offensive rebounds before Hall picked Kimberly Brandon’s pocket for her first of two steals. The senior guard then put up a three on the ensuing possession, but her shot was off the mark; allowing the Sundevils to grab a 2-0 lead on the following possession. Hall, normally a sharp-shooter, went 0-8 from three-point range, and finished just 2-13 from the field.
“We had a lot of open looks,” said Hardeman. “We just weren’t hitting shots.”
Azusa Pacific stayed in the game, and were within a point at the 12-minute mark after freshman Katie Powell hit a three off a Tianna Jones steal to make it 11-10.
But the Devils would go on a 19-5 run to extend their lead to 30-15 on a layup from Brandon.
ASU went into the break with a 32-17 advantage despite shooting just 34.3 percent from the field.
The second half opened with an ASU miss, but the Cougars couldn’t capitalize as Jones missed a three on the other end.
The Sun Devils eventually widened their lead to 50-20 after Jada Blackwell hit a 3-pointer to cap an 18-3 ASU run to open the second half.
Azusa Pacific couldn’t claw its way back in the game as the home team shot an even 50 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes.
Roehrkasse led the team with nine rebounds, while Williams’ eight points were a team high.
Cara Bomar, an Arizona native, came off the bench and hit the only shot she took (a 3-pointer) while grabbing two boards.
The Cougars will get back on the floor tomorrow night as they face the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona for a 7:30 p.m. tip.