HONOLULU, Hawai’i-- The Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team may be enjoying the Hawaiian lifestyle, but the Cougars showed on Thursday night that they aren’t on vacation. For the second game in a row Azusa Pacific won in a rout, this time defeating Chaminade behind a its highest scoring offensive output this season.
The Cougars, whose previous season-high (84 points) came on Monday night, had 11 scorers and four players finish in double figures en route to their second straight 40-point win. Maddy Barrett had a team-high 17 points, three steals, and three assists, while Morgann Ellis poured in a career-high 13 points after nailing three treys. Azusa Pacific shot 48 percent from the floor, and sank nine 3-pointers.
“We’ve been talking about trying to execute and play at the same level regardless, and so that’s kind of what we were trying to do and I felt like we did a good job of it. Offensively we talked about not turning it over, and with how many people we had playing and how many possessions we had I thought we really did a nice job,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “Morgann did a nice job coming out and being ready to play and overall I thought the bench played well.”
The Cougar offense racked up 22 assists on 38 makes, with 10 players recording an assist, led by the Pacific West’s dish-leader Sullivan Ziegler, who tabbed a team-high six in the win. Kelly Hardeman tallied 11 points in 24 minutes of play, and pulled in six rebounds. Amanda Sims hit a pair of triples, finishing with 10 points and three steals.
The Cougar defense forced 27 turnovers, leading to 22 points, and limited the Silverswords (1-19, 1-14) to a 34 percent clip from the floor. Azusa Pacific out-rebounded Chaminade 47-35, and grabbed 20 offensive boards to finish with 16 second-chance points.
The victory is just the latest in an impressive run from the Cougars, who’ve continued to improve throughout the season. Azusa Pacific, which opened the year with four consecutive losses and was 2-6 midway through December, have won 12 of its past 15, with each loss coming to the PacWest’s top-three teams in the standings. Two of those losses were overtime defeats on the road.
“We’re getting closer. Now that it’s winding down we’re getting closer and closer to doing that things that we need to do to be successful. I feel pretty good about this team reaching its potential. But what we’re talking about doing right now is playing each game, and each possession. If we do that things will work out,” said Hardeman.
The Cougars opened the game on a 12-2 spurt and never saw their lead sink to single digits after Lauren Gilster nailed a free throw with 12:22 to play in the first half. Azusa Pacific led by as many as 24 in the frame, and went into the break leading 46-24. In the second half a Calli Jackson jumper gave the Cougars their first 30-point edge, and an Annie Fredrickson basket put the Cougars ahead by 40.
The 41-point win is the second-largest margin of victory in Hardeman’s five seasons, and guarantees Azusa Pacific a winning record for the 10th straight season. With the National Christian College Athletics Association playoffs around the corner the Cougars have a shot at their 10th consecutive 20-win season, and have an outside chance at the PacWest Championship. Azusa Pacific is two back of first place Grand Canyon (Ariz.) with three games to play, and trails second-place California Baptist by a game in the loss-column.
The Cougars will have chance to make a dent in their deficit when they host CBU and Grand Canyon next week in their final home-stand of the season after facing Hawai’i Hilo on Saturday night.