AZUSA, Calif.-- In its second game against a ranked opponent in as many nights the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team nearly overcame a 37-9 run before ultimately falling 83-74 to No. 21 Seattle Pacific in the final game of the West Region Crossover Classic. The Falcons (6-0) erased a 13-point Cougar first half lead and went ahead by as many as 13 themselves thanks to a 31-point effort from Katie Benson and an answer for each of Azusa Pacific’s comeback bids late in the game.
“We didn’t do the things we needed to do. We had some good moments and some awful moments where we didn’t execute. They had one girl that we didn’t do a good job guarding. She had a really nice night and we didn’t rise up to defend against her and it cost us,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman.
“Every time we made a run we gave up a basket on the other end. It’s the mark of a team that hasn’t really gelled to this point. But that’s the good thing about playing good teams this early in the year. We will learn from it and next time we’re in a similar position we’ll have something to look back on.”
In the final minute the Cougars cut Seattle Pacific’s lead down to four points when Kelly Hardeman drained her fourth 3-pointer of the night to make it a 78-74 Falcon lead. But on the ensuing possession SPU got to the foul line, hit a free throw, and Azusa Pacific was never able to get the deficit to a single possession.
The Cougars held an early 13-point lead, taking a 25-12 advantage on a Maggie Dumphy putback with 10:34 to play in the first half. Seattle Pacific then scored nine straight points thanks to sloppy Cougar offense and second chance points. A pair of Benson free throws gave the Falcons their first tie since the opening minutes of the game at 31-31.
SPU grabbed its first lead on a Brianne Lasconia layup, making it a 33-31 game with 2:45 remaining in the opening frame, and the Falcons never relinquished their lead from then on. Seattle Pacific outrebounded Azusa Pacific (1-2) 47-33, and finished with 19 second chance points.
“We said before the game the team that wins the rebounding battle would win. We knew if we wanted to win we had to out rebound them and we didn’t. I think there were times where our players were concerned with Benson instead of going after the ball and rebounding,” said Hardeman.
The Cougars shot just 40.6 percent from the floor after posting an efficient 57 percent clip from the floor in Friday night’s win. Hardeman recorded a team-high 29 points and nine rebounds while adding four steals. Junior guard Katie Powell came off the bench and hit four of her five shots to finish with a season-high 11 points as the only Cougar to shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
Allison Greene scored eight points and dished out seven assists, and Sendy Valles stayed in double-figures for the third straight night with 11 points and seven rebounds. Dumphy scored eight points and pulled in seven rebounds off the bench.
Azusa Pacific will return to action on Friday at the UC San Diego Holiday Invitational where the Cougars will play Cal State San Bernardino and UCSD.