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GSAC Semifinals Game Notes

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Photo by Ken Williams
Cherie Hughes shoots over a Sunbird defender in the Cougars rout of Fresno Pacific.

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March 2, 2012
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- Tonight the Golden State Athletic Conference's No. 2 seed, Azusa Pacific, plays for the program's second straight berth in the GSAC championship game against the 3rd seeded Lions of Vanguard. The two teams split their regular season meetings with each squad winning at home.

Full Game Notes Click Here (PDF)


No. 12 Azusa Pacific vs. No. 11 Vanguard

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ABOUT THE COUGARS: Over the past two weeks no team in the conference has been playing better basketball than the NAIA’s 12th ranked Azusa Pacific. In the Cougars’ last four games they’ve won by an average of 20.5 points, and haven’t trailed in the second half in any of those contests. Azusa Pacific’s tournament opening win over Fresno Pacific saw the Cougars post the program’s largest postseason margin of victory in a 36-point win over the Sunbirds.

SIMILAR STRENGTHS: The Cougars and Lions finished 1-2 in the GSAC in rebounding. Azusa Pacific averaged a conference-leading 48.6 during the GSAC season, while Vanguard pulled down a clip of 42.9 per night. The two squads flipped spots in the assists per-game category as the Lions led the way with an average of 17.5, while Azusa Pacific dished out assists at a rate of 15.11 per contest.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Azusa Pacific leads the conference in field goal percentage defense (.343), while Vanguard ranks 4th in that category (.358). The Cougars are also efficient at defending the three as they held opponents to a league-low.268 3-pt percentage.

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD: Tonight’s game will be the season-deciding matchup between these two teams. Vanguard struck first in the series, giving the Cougars their second GSAC loss of the season as Briana Hall sat out with an injury. Azusa Pacific returned the favor by posting a 67-64 win over the Lions at home, but was just a shot away from falling to 0-2 against Vanguard this season. The two teams finished tied for 2nd in the conference.

RANKINGS MATTER: The Cougars, ranked No. 12 in the NAIA, have spent the entirety of the season ranked inside the coaches top-25 poll. Azusa Pacific opened the year as the No. 1 team in the country after winning the program’s first national championship last year. But a loss to current No. 5 Westmont and a brief three-game road skid (all to ranked opponents) dropped the Cougars out of the top-10. Azusa pacific, however has fared well against rated teams, posting wins over No. 4 Lubbock Christian, No. 5 Westmont, No. 11 Vanguard, and No. 13 Lewis-Clark State. All but one of the Cougars losses were to ranked teams with Biola being the outlier.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Azusa Pacific is 14-0 in the Felix Event Center during the 2011-12 season and finished 6-5 on the road (3-1) in neutral site games. The Cougars score 73.3 points per game at home, and 69.8 away from it, while the team shoots significantly better from 3-point range at home (.359), compared to on the road (.272).

ALL-GSAC: Tonight’s game boasts four all-conference players, with two on each team. Hall made her third appearance on the list after averaging 15.6 points and 5.9 assists, while Amber Williams received her first nod after leading the conference in rebounding. Vanguard’s Esther Timmermans and Paige Halberg were first-time honorees. Timmermans led the team in scoring with 12.4 points per game and Halberg was the Lions assists leader, dishing out 6.0 per game.

ABOUT THE LIONS: If the Cougars are the hottest team in the conference, the Lions aren’t a far second. Since Vanguard suffered a 57-54 loss to Azusa Pacific in Felix Event Center on Feb. 3 the team has won eight straight. In their last four the Lions have won by an average of 26.25 points, and boat-raced Hope International by 61 points on Feb. 21. In their 69-42 opening round win over Point Loma Nazarene Timmermans registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Taylor Belmont led all Lions with 14 points.

SERIES HISTORY: Azusa Pacific leads 41-30, and has won five of the last seven.