AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team’s hopes of a Pacific West Conference championship were dashed on Thursday night after falling to California Baptist 76-51. The Cougars, who entered the final week of the regular season with an outside shot at claiming the PacWest crown, picked a bad night to take off, getting beat in all phases of the game as the Lancers conversely kept their bid for a conference crown alive.
“We didn’t come to play. It was a huge game and we worked all season to get to a spot where we were playing a meaningful game late in the year. Our leaders didn’t lead us and we didn’t compete,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “We didn’t play hard. They got every loose ball, every rebound. We didn’t look like we cared. And that was frustrating because I know we do.”
On the offensive end Azusa Pacific hit just a third of its shots, going 18-of-54 from the floor, and getting 44 of its 51 points from its three starting forwards. The trio of Hannah Kenny, Kelly Hardeman, and Maddy Barrett were the lone contributors on offense, with Kenny pouring in a team-high 19 points. Hardeman added 16 after burying four treys, while Barrett chipped in with nine points. Outside of that Azusa Pacific made just 2-of-17 shots.
On the other end the Lancers shot the lights out, sinking 10 3-pointers, and getting four double-digit scorers. Simone Holmes was nearly unstoppable, draining four triples to log a game-high 20 points.
“We couldn’t guard people, run offense, or get in the right spots. They beat us in every phase of the game. It’s frustrating. On the biggest stage we didn’t perform. I think it was a young team not knowing how to react and we’ll get better from it. But still, it’s a hard lesson to learn,” said Hardeman.
The Cougars coughed up the ball 20 times, leading to 19 points for California Baptist, and couldn’t get the transition game going, finishing with just two fastbreak points. The loss was the Cougars’ largest margin of defeat at home in PacWest play, and comes after Azusa Pacific nearly knocked off the Lancers in Riverside before CBU escaped with a 67-65 overtime win earlier in the year.
CBU opened the game on fire, and grabbed its first lead of the game early in the opening half after Azusa pacific grabbed a five-point advantage just over two minutes after the opening tip. Holmes paced the attack, hitting three triples in the frame to give CBU a 19-point edge after 20 minutes of play.
Things didn’t get better in the second half, and the Lancers’ lead ballooned to as many as 28 points before Hardeman got whistled for his first technical of the season. Azusa Pacific showed signs of life late in the game, but couldn’t chip away at the massive deficit it built through 30 minutes of poor play.
The double-digit loss is the team’s first in regulation since Azusa Pacific suffered a 70-43 defeat against Grand Canyon on Jan. 21. The Cougars will welcome the ‘Lopes on Saturday in the regular season-finale where four seniors will be honored following the game for their contributions to the program. Tip is set for 6:00 p.m.