FRANKFORT, Ky.-- Azusa Pacific’s bid for a repeat championship ended as top-ranked Oklahoma City advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA Women’s Basketball Tournament with a 78-61 win over the 9th ranked Cougars. Azusa Pacific (26-8) shot just 32.8 percent in the loss while the Stars, who are second in the country in field goal percentage, finished with a 45.2 percent clip which included eight 3-pointers.
The 16-point loss was the Cougars’ largest margin of defeat this year and was the program’s third tournament loss at the hands of Oklahoma City. The Stars blitzed to a 16-2 lead, nailing their first three treys, but the Cougars hung in there and went on a 15-4 run to make it 20-17 with 9:28 to play in the first half. The Stars came back to make it 32-21 but Azusa Pacific eventually cut the deficit to 32-26 at halftime. Oklahoma City shot just 32.4 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, while the Cougars made just 10-of-38 from the floor (26.3 percent).
Oklahoma City strung together another spree to kick off the second half with an 18-7 stretch that put the Cougars down 50-33 with 13:33 on the clock. After that Azusa Pacific never got within got within 10 points as the Stars cruised to their 11th semifinal appearance in program history.
Lauren Gober led all scorers with 23 points and buried a game-high five treys on top of pulling in 11 rebounds. Madalene Barrett recorded her first double-double of the season, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 off the glass. Amanda Sims had 12 in the loss, while Amber Williams led the team with 13 points. Briana Hall had a season-low five points, breaking a stretch of 13 straight games with 10+ points. The senior guard did, however, dish out a game-high nine assists.
Azusa Pacific gave the ball up 18 times, leading to 18 points off turnovers for the Stars (33-1). The Cougars had just one steal in the game, but pulled in 17 offensive rebounds to get 14 second chance points. Hannah Kenny had a near double-double with eight points and nine rebounds while Oklahoma City dished out the second most assists of any Cougar opponent this season with 21.
Sims and Barrett were Azusa Pacific’s only outside threats as each buried three triples in the game, while the rest of the team went a combined 0-2 from beyond the arc.
Cherie Hughes, Jasmyn Reed, Hall, and Williams leave Azusa Pacific as the most successful four-year senior class in school history. The group made four straight tournament appearances, three consecutive quarterfinal trips, reached two championship games, and brought home the Cougars’ first-ever women’s basketball national championship.
Hall ends her career as the program’s all-time assists leader, and as the only player to register over 600 assists, and 1,600 points. She also ranks in the top-5 in career steals and games played.
Williams ended her four-year career with her best season to date, breaking the school’s single season rebounding record and tying C.J. Hill and Michelle Byrd for the most career games (140).
Today’s loss also ends a stretch that saw head coach T.J. Hardeman, who received his first technical foul of the season today, quadruple the program’s win total in NAIA tournament play with 12 wins over the last four years after Azusa Pacific had just three in its entire history prior to his arrival.
The Cougars, who are transitioning to NCAA Div. II, finish their era in the NAIA with 15 appearances and a 15-14 overall record in the championship tournament.
With the win Oklahoma City moves onto the semifinals and plays Lubbock Christian (Texas), which handed the Stars their only loss of the year.