AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team used a healthy dose of defense and effort en route to its third straight win, defeating Point Loma 57-31 after losing by 18 to the Sea Lions in San Diego last month. The Cougars, who are 5-2 since opening the season with four consecutive losses, utilized its stingiest defensive performance in head Coach T.J. Hardeman’s six seasons at the helm, and limited the Pacific West’s top 3-point shooting team to a 4-of-20 mark from beyond the arc.
Point Loma shot just 20.4 percent (11-for-54) from the floor, and didn’t have a single player reach double-digits, while the Cougars registered a +21 rebounding margin (48-27), led by Maddy Barrett’s 10 board performance in her second game this year. It was the second time this season Azusa Pacific held an opposing team under 40 points (Biola; 36).
“We’ve focused on better rebounding and better defense. Offensively we didn’t look that smooth tonight, but defensively, when you play that hard, it gives you some wiggle room,” said Hardeman.
“Having played them before and lost, we really felt like we wanted to come out tonight and show that we’ve gotten better. Both us and Point Loma have a history of not playing that well in the other team’s gym, so this year solidified that a little bit. I feel like we’re a much better team than we were when we faced them. They’re bigger than we are and we out-rebounded them by 21. A lot of it was just aggression and just being the pursuers, the ones that get after it. I thought our guards played with a lot of energy and that helped us a lot.”
Azusa Pacific forced a Point Loma that’s averaged 7.5 3-pointers per game to miss its first seven treys of the night, and kept the Sea Lions from scoring for an 11-minute span in the first half as Azusa Pacific grabbed a 17-8 advantage. Point Loma had only two players score in the first half, with Jessica Escorza recording eight, and Callie Rhoads scoring five.
Offensively Amanda Sims, who was celebrating her 23rd birthday, led the way in scoring with 14 points, draining 3-of-5 from deep. The senior guard also pulled in seven rebounds, four on the offensive end, and added an assist. Point guard Sullivan Ziegler directed the offense with six assists, while notching four steals defensively.
The Cougars got double-figure efforts from the usual suspects as Hannah Kenny went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field to finish with 11 points, while Kelly Hardeman drained three triples to register 13 points. Kenny pulled in eight boars off the glass, and Hardeman tallied six rebounds.
The dominating performance showed off the Cougars’ depth as Azusa Pacific got 18 points off the bench, highlighted by Katie Powell and Morgann Ellis’ four 3-pointers as the Cougars extended their lead to as many as 27 points late in the second frame.
Escorza’s scoreless lay-in gave Point Loma its only lead of the night before Hardeman sank a trey a minute and a half into the contest to grab a 3-2 Cougar edge. Hardeman was responsible for eight of the team’s first 10 points, helping Azusa Pacific control a 10-8 advantage at the 15:06 mark.
For the following 11+ minutes of action the Sea Lions went 0-for-12 from the field in a scoreless drought that included five turnovers before a Rhoads 3-pointer made it an 17-11 game. Azusa Pacific then closed the half on a 7-2 run thanks to a pair of jumpers from Kenny and a trey from Sims to go into the break leading 24-13.
Point Loma opened the second half with its second 3-pointer of the night as Carlotta Kloppenburg made it a 24-16 affair. After trading missed shots and turnovers Kenny converted a lay-in plus the foul to go up 27-16, sparking an 11-0 Cougars run that pushed the lead to 35-16. The Sea Lions never got back to within striking distance as Azusa Pacific improved to 3-1 at home this season.
The victory pushed the Cougars, who outscored Point Loma 33-18 over the final 20 minutes, to 2-1 in PacWest play, and to within a game of .500. Point Loma falls to 4-7, 2-3 in conference play with the loss. Azusa Pacific will return to the floor on Saturday when they take on Dixie State (Utah) at 1:00 p.m. in the Felix Event Center. It’ll be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.