FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.-- After a rough game against Arizona State on Thursday, the NAIA’s No. 1 Azusa Pacific, breaking in four new starters, showed growth on the road against Northern Arizona, despite losing 66-79 in an exhibition Friday night.
Amber Williams paced the Cougars with a double-double, scoring 16 points while pulling down 11 rebounds. Briana Hall finished with a team-high 18 points and dished out five assists.
"There have been flashes of some very nice things. Some of those identity questions we're starting to figure out, but it's not going to happen in one weekend," said Head Coach TJ Hardeman. "We need a lot of work, but the good thing is that we came away knowing what we needed to work on."
Offensively Azusa Pacific fared much better against the Lumberjacks than they did the Sun Devils as three players finished in double figures after Hall led the way with nine last night.
The Cougars, who never led in the game, opened the first half with a steal by Rebecca Roehrkasse, but a Tianna Jones turnover gave the Lumberjacks the ball back. On the ensuing play Hall fouled Amy Patton to put her at the line and give Northern Arizona a 1-0 lead. From there the home team scored two straight buckets to take a 5-0 lead before Azusa Pacific made it 4-5 after two layups from Williams.
Jasmyn Reed’s jumper put the game at 8-6 with 12:38 left in the first half, but that would be the last Cougar score for over four minutes as the ‘Jacks would rattle off 15 straight, capped by an Amanda Frost 3-pointer to make it a 20-6 game.
Roerhkasse finally ended the run on a jumper, igniting a 6-0 streak by the Cougars to bring the game within eight points but they eventually went to the half trailing 36-21.
At the break Hall led with two assists, while Hannah Kenney grabbed six boards.
Azusa Pacific got the first basket of the second half when Williams hit one from the midrange. Amanda Sims then hit a free throw to drop the team’s deficit to 12 at 36-24.
Fast forward to later in the half, the Cougars found themselves trailing by 18 with 5:01 to play. But a 12-4 run, opened up with four free throws from Jones, and a two-pointer from Hall gave Azusa Pacific life as the team trailed by just 10 (61-71) with 1:56 left.
But it turned out to be too little too late as the ‘Jacks closed the game by hitting eight straight free throws.
The Cougars shot 33.8 percent from the field on the night and outscored Northern Arizona by two (45-43) in the second half.
"I felt like we played one good half all weekend," said Hardeman. "We did some good things...it was exciting."
Over the final 20 minutes Azusa Pacific went toe-to-toe with the Lumberjacks, matching them in points in the paint (13 apiece), and holding them without a field goal over the last 5:58 of regulation.
Azusa Pacific kicks off the regular season with a home game against Lubbock Christian on November 17.