AZUSA, Calif.-- On Tuesday the NAIA’s top-ranked Azusa Pacific’s streak of 15 straight GSAC regular-season wins came to an end. On Saturday the Cougars (5-1, 1-1 GSAC) rebounded in a big way, beating Hope International (2-6, 0-2 GSAC) 89-73 thanks in large part to a 60-37 disparity on the boards and another big night from Amber Williams.
The senior center, who had a modest five rebounds in the team’s 68-64 loss to Westmont, pulled down 22 rebounds and finished with 16 points to grab her fourth double-double of the season. Williams broke the program’s single-season record with her 22 boards just over a week after tying the school mark with a 21-21 game.
“It’s funny because that’s not on my mind. I’m just focusing on the team doing well,” said Williams about her record. “I didn’t know I broke it until my coach told me. In a way it’s good to be recognized because I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work.”
Through six games Williams is averaging 18.8 points and 14.5 rebounds in her first season as a full-time starter.
“This year has been different. Last year all I had to do is go in and play,” said Williams. “As a senior, starter, and captain, on top of playing, I’m trying to make sure my team does well.”
And they did, as five Cougars finished the night in double-digits, led by Tianna Jones who had a season-best 18 points on 5-9 shooting and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. Jones also added three rebounds and two steals.
“Tianna was great tonight. She did a good job of penetrating and getting everyone involved,” said Head Coach T.J. Hardeman.
Azusa Pacific hit 17 of its 21 free throws, and made 40 percent of its 3-point tries (6-15), two of which came from senior point guard Briana Hall. Hall finished the night with 12 points, four assists, and two steals, but turned the ball over five times.
In the game the Cougars led by as many as 31, but Hope International nearly wiped that away towards the end of the second half with a 24-5 run to bring make it a 12-point contest with six minutes to go.
Azusa Pacific, however, responded and eventually regained a 20-point lead on a pair of Jasmyn Reed free throws before winning its 5th game of the year 89-73.
The Cougars out rebounded the Royals by 23, and had 25 offensive boards leading to 22 second chance points. Azusa Pacific finished 42.9 percent from the field and held Hope International to a 34.7 percent clip from the floor as the Royals hit only five of their 26 3-point attempts.
But things weren’t all good on the Cougar front as Azusa Pacific committed 20 turnovers; which led to 24 points for the Royals.
“Some things were good, some things were bad. When we took the 31-point lead we quit playing,” said Hardeman. “It really wasn’t fun to finish off that way, but we learned a good lesson and it didn’t cost us that much to learn.”
Next week the Cougars travel to Kentucky, the new site for the NAIA Championship tournament, for games against Campbellsville (Ky.) and Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) on Friday and Saturday.