AZUSA, Calif.-- In a matchup featuring the Pacific West Conference’s top offense and stingiest defense, the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team limited high scoring Hawai’i Pacific to just 52 points in a 69-52 win on Saturday night. The Cougars led from start to finish, but had to hold off a second half rally from visiting Sea Warriors, who shaved a 15-point Cougar lead to one midway through the second frame.
Azusa Pacific, however, snuffed the rally with a clutch 3-pointer from Sendy Valles to spark a 23-7 Cougar run and put the Sea Warriors away to improve to 14-2 in PacWest play. The Cougars held the Sea Warriors, who pace the PacWest with a 41.3 field goal percentage, to a 34.4 percent clip from the floor, including a 4-of-17 mark from beyond the arc.
“This was a big game. We knew they could come in and beat us, so we had this one circled. I thought we really played well, especially on the defensive end. To hold them to 52 is an awesome defensive effort on our part,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman.
“They’re a good team, and we knew they’d make a run. We had a lead, and relaxed a little bit, and all of a sudden it was a one-point game. So I told the team to get after it. We refocused, got the ball inside and established ourselves and I think that was big for us.”
Azusa Pacific’s high-low attack saw four players score in double figures, with Maggie Dumphy taking advantage of the HPU (14-8, 10-6) zone defense for 14 points on the inside.
Dumphy also added eight rebounds and three blocks in the win, while Allison Greene orchestrated a balanced offense with 18 points and four assists. Valles finished with 16 points, and Sullivan Ziegler tallied 12 points, four steals, and four rebounds.
“When four girls are in double figures, it’s hard to figure out who to guard. They haven’t played zone in a while, and we usually shoot the ball better, but because we were struggling outside we wanted to get it to the high post. We have people that can pass from there and make good decisions, and it really worked to our advantage. When we didn’t do that we looked terrible,” said Hardeman.
The Cougars got off to a strong start, jumping to an 11-3 lead and taking a 12-point advantage into the half. But the Sea Warriors opened the second half on a 13-2 run, cutting their deficit to one point after a steal and layup from Morganne Comstock made it a 38-37 game with 16:16 to play.
But on the following play Valles drained a step-back jumper from beyond the arc, pushing the Cougar lead back to four points. Then after the Sea Warriors responded with a jumper on the other end, Valles found Dumphy from the high post for a slashing lay in to make it a 43-39 game.
Two possessions later Valles continued her hot play, driving left down the baseline for a right landed layup to put Azusa Pacific up 45-41. The Cougars then began to pour it on with an 11-0 run, first with a 3-pointer from Kelly Hardeman, and then on a steal and fastbreak layup from Greene.
A Dumphy jumper off a Hardeman pass gave the Cougars a 52-41 edge, and a Valles fastbreak layup capped the spurt to give Azusa Pacific a 54-41 lead. Even after the Cougars ran to a 61-44 lead the defense continued to shine, most notably on a fastbreak block and rebound from Dumphy.
The Sea Warriors eventually cut the Cougar lead to nine points with 4:45 to play, but a possession that saw the Cougars grab two offensive boards before Ziegler buried a triple from the top of the key milked over a minute off the clock, and all but put Hawai’i Pacific away.
With the win Azusa Pacific remains in contention for the PacWest championship, with Academy of Art and the Cougars locked into the top two spots. With just four games remaining in the regular season, and four games separating second place and third place, the Urban Knights (15-1) and Cougars (14-2) will likely finish 1-2 in the conference standings, with a Feb. 27 game in San Francisco setting up a potential PacWest championship game.
The Cougars will close out their home schedule with a Monday night game against Hawai’i Hilo, and a Saturday tilt against Point Loma on senior day.