AZUSA, Calif.-- It’s getting old and the season’s still young. Amber Williams had another huge night as she scored a career high 29 points to give the NAIA’s top ranked Azusa Pacific a 75-56 win over Carroll College (Mont.) a night after the senior center’s 21-point 21-rebound effort. Azusa Pacific finished with 19 assists while fellow senior Briana Hall excelled in the fast paced affair; finishing with 14 points, seven assists and three steals.
Williams pulled down eight boards (three offensive) and finished 7-8 from the stripe and is now averaging 18.8 points and 14.5 rebounds through the first four games.
“I’m not surprised by what she’s doing at all. She’s done it in spurts throughout her career, but now as a senior she’s the go-to person in the middle,” said Head Coach TJ Hardeman who called his two seniors the best at their position in the country. “She plays with the freedom of knowing the she’s going to get her chances and I think that helps…knowing that she may be stopped on one or two plays but not all night.”
But stopping Williams didn’t look promising for the Saints as Williams scored the game’s first six points to give the Cougars an early 6-0 lead.
Carroll bounced back a little bit, but the first half belonged to the Cougars as they led 32-16 at the half.
The Saints hit a few shots to bring the contest within reach at 34-24 with 17:56 remaining, but Rebecca Roehrkasse hit a jumper off a Hall pass to make it a 12 point game. The Saints responded with another basket, but Hall’s 3-pointer off a Tianna Jones pass seemed to end any hope of a comeback. Jones finished the night tied with Hall with a game-high seven assists as both guards found their teammates early and often.
“When you have a guard that is finding other people that opens things up,” said Hardeman. “The fact that we have two is a luxury.”
Azusa Pacific (4-0) got 26 points off turnovers, and outscored the Saints (3-4) 36-20 in the paint as the team continued to show off its wheels.
“This team has a new identity…it’s more of an up-tempo style,” said Hardeman. “I think we still have a lot of room to grow, but we’re doing good things and making great strides.”
And part of that growth has been the team’s depth. 14 players got in the game, while Katie Powell, Jasmyn Reed and Madalene Barrett combined to shoot an impressive 8-12 off the bench as the team played well despite coming off a big win over a top-5 team on Friday.
“After last night I was afraid we wouldn’t be quite as motivated, but we were good,” said Hardeman. “It was a good win for us and good to be able to execute.”
And with a challenging road game against GSAC foe Westmont on Tuesday, the Cougars will need to be extremely sharp.
“That’s a huge game for us. They’re the most improved team in the conference. We aren’t afraid, but it’s going to be tough,” said Hardeman.
Westmont boasts one of the NAIA’s top newcomers in Tugce Canitez. The junior from Turkey is averaging 17.7 points through the team’s first seven games, and scored 33 points in Westmont’s exhibition with USC.
The Cougars will defend their No. 1 ranking on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.