ST. GEORGE, Utah-- Kelly Hardeman hit five second half 3-pointers and the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team outscored Dixie State 22-8 down the stretch to end the Red Storm’s four-game Pacific West Conference winning streak with a 72-56 victory on Saturday night in the Burns Arena. The Red Storm nearly erased a 10-point second half deficit, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 50-48 with 7:46 on the clock and Azusa Pacific playing without its star point guard Allison Greene.
But just when it looked like the Cougars’ perfect start to conference play was slipping away, Azusa Pacific turned to its All-PacWest forward, who delivered in one of the finest halves of her young career. Hardeman scored 19 of her 27 points in the second half, with eight coming during a 15-0 stretch that secured the Cougars’ sixth consecutive conference win.
“They’re a very good team and we knew we’d be in for a tough game. Allison’s usually our engine that makes us go, and once she went down I think there was a little bit of our team coming together. From then on we did a good job of playing as a team and finding Kelly on the outside,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “Kelly is a dead-eye shooter, and with a new team, sometimes we don’t find her enough. But I thought Sendy Valles and Sullivan Ziegler did a great job coming in and getting her the ball. The team recognized she had a hot hand and found her.”
Hardeman finished one away from the program’s single-game record for made 3-pointers in a game, going 7-of-12 from beyond the arc to nearly match Marie Dyk, who drained eight treys against Westmont in 2004. Hardeman also added six rebounds and two assists.
The Cougars led by as many as 20 points and held the Red Storm to just 20-of-66 (30.3 percent) shooting from the field, with 10 of those baskets coming from Haley Holmstead, who accounted for nearly half of Dixie State’s offense with 23 points. Azusa Pacific shot just 38 percent (27-71), but took care of the ball with a 21-11 assist-turnover ratio.
The Cougars were out-rebounded 61-47, and despite a 31-20 offensive rebounding disparity for Dixie State kept with the Red Storm in second chance points (17 apiece). Valles tallied 15 rebounds (six offensive), and added 13 points and seven assists for the Cougars’ lone double-double.
Azusa Pacific’s defense limited the Red Storm to 21.4 percent shooting in the second half, and forced 17 turnovers, which led to 20 points on the Cougar end.
The Cougars never trailed in the second half, but Dixie State managed to get within two points on two separate occasions in the final 10 minutes. After Lauren Gilster’s layup out of the break gave Azusa Pacific its first double-digit lead of the game (38-28) the Red Storm came back with a 17-9 run to make it a 47-45 game with 8:56 to play.
The Cougars pushed their lead back to five on a Hardeman triple, but Dixie State got a basket from Taylor Mann and a free throw from Brianna White to make it a 50-48 contest with 7:46 on the clock. From then on, however, Azusa Pacific took control beginning with a pair of Maggie Dumphy free throws. A free throw from Gilster, and baskets by Valles and Hardeman pushed the Cougar lead to 57-48 with 5:59 on the clock.
Hardeman extended the run with back-to-back 3-pointers, and a Ziegler fast break layup capped the 15-0 spurt to push the score to 65-48. Azusa Pacific took its largest lead of the game (72-52) on a basket from Valles before the Cougars sealed a 72-56 win.
Ziegler finished with six points, three assists, and two steals, and Gilster added eight points and six rebounds. Greene tallied nine points and six assists before exiting the game, and Dumphy finished with six points, five rebounds, four steals, and four blocks.
The Cougars return to action on Tuesday when they host Dominican in the Felix Event Center before a road tilt at Point Loma on Friday night.