AZUSA, Calif.-- It wasn’t pretty, but the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team found a way to overcome its shooting woes, hitting 15 of its 18 free throws in the second half and utilizing a stifling defense to hold off a scrappy Fresno Pacific team in a 64-56 win.
The Cougars shot just 31.3 percent from the floor (19-61), but went 25-of-33 from the line, and got a bounce back performance from junior forward Sendy Valles, who tallied a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds (both game-highs) to lift Azusa Pacific to 3-0 (5-3 overall) in Pacific West Conference play on Monday night.
The Cougars controlled the boards, and turned 22 Fresno Pacific (1-8, 1-2) turnovers into 20 points. Azusa Pacific also shutout the Sunbirds over a six-minute period late in the second half, and didn’t allow an FPU field goal over a 10-minute span before Fresno Pacific got within 55-51 with 2:04 on the clock. The Cougars, however, drained seven of their final eight shots from the free throw line to build up a 10-point lead before a last second layup kept the final difference in single digits as time expired.
The Cougars played from behind for the majority of the first half, and trailed by as many as five in the second. But after knotting the score at 47-47 on a Valles jumper, Azusa Pacific took its first second half lead on a pair of Valles free throws with 6:12 to play, and never looked back to post its third consecutive win.
“You’re going to have nights like this where you don’t shoot the ball great, but free throws win games. We weren’t perfect but we made 75 percent and we’ll take that. Sendy had a really good game for us and it was good to see her get back on track. I think that’s the strength of our team is that we have a lot of weapons, so when one doesn’t play well another steps up, and Sendy certainly did tonight,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman.
“It was a weird night, but we had specific goals that we came in with and accomplished. In their last game they had 21 offensive rebounds and we knew if we wanted to win we had to contain their offensive rebounding. They had just five tonight, and we were very pleased with our rebounding edge.”
Azusa Pacific gave up just two second chance points, and held a 17-5 advantage in offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second chance points for the Cougars. Allison Greene and Kelly Hardeman each finished in double figures, with Greene tabbing 16 points behind 12-14 shooting from the stripe. The guard also added four assists, seven rebounds, and three steals, while Hardman tallied 10 points, two assists, and six rebounds (five offensive).
The Cougar defense limited the Sunbird offense to 20-47 shooting despite a hot start for FPU in which it shot 48 percent (12-25) from the floor over the first 20 minutes to take a 31-28 lead into the break. Over the final 20 minutes of the night Fresno Pacific went only 8-for-22 from the field and turned the ball over 22 times. The Sunbirds made just two baskets over the final 12 minutes of play as a 45-41 FPU lead turned into an eight point Cougar win.
“I thought defensively we played really well and we’ve been fortunate to come out of these slugfests on top. I thought a big key to the game, momentum-wise, was when Maggie Dumphy chased down a breakaway and blocked their shot. It was nice to see that passion and determination, and she just didn’t give up even though it looked like it was going to be a pretty easy basket,” said Hardeman.
Dumphy recorded two blocks in the win, and added three steals and four rebounds. Sophomore Lauren Gilster grabbed three rebounds, and added five points, while Elena Ala finished with six rebounds, four points, and three steals.
Azusa Pacific will close out the non-conference slate on Saturday against Cal State L.A. before taking a brief break prior to a Jan. 4 home tilt against Holy Names.