SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.-- As the saying goes, if you can’t be them, beat them, or something along those lines. After falling out of the Pacific West Conference race with a pair of surprising losses last week, the Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team spoiled Academy of Art’s PacWest championship celebration with an 82-66 win on Thursday night.
The Cougars, who were in the thick of the title race before the Urban Knights clinched the conference championship after an Azusa Pacific loss to Point Loma last week, used a 19-6 run towards the end of the first half to go into the break leading 37-29. Then Azusa Pacific’s second half 24-9 spree put the Urban Knights away, snapping Art U’s 11-game winning streak.
” We felt like we haven’t played well lately and we wanted to refocus on something else, finish the season strong. Obviously we wanted to win the league, but not everything works out the way you want it to. So it was nice to come out and get a win against a really good team,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman.
The Cougars shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half, and drained 11 3-pointers while dishing out 20 assists. Azusa Pacific had five players score in double figures, with junior guard Allison Greene leading the way with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Sendy Valles added 15 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, while Kelly Hardeman tallied 11 points and eight rebounds. Sullivan Ziegler shot 3-of-6 from the floor and hit all four of her free throws to score 10 points, and Katie Powell sank three of her four shots from beyond the arc to finish with 11 points off the bench.
” We talked about playing with enthusiasm and playing with passion. We had 20 assists, which is nice because it shows that we were finding each other. It was a nice way to play against the league champions,” said Hardeman.
The Cougar defense held the reigning PacWest Tournament champion Urban Knights to 32.4 percent shooting, including a 23.5 percent clip in the first half. Academy of Art (21-7, 18-2) had only two players score 10 or more points, with Krystal Forthan and Zoie Sheng combining for half of the Urban Knight’s points.
Early in the second half Academy of Art got to within six points at 43-37 on a Forthan jumper. But a Greene 3-pointer pushed the lead back to nine points. Then, with the Cougars ahead 52-43, Azusa Pacific went on a 10-0 run, with treys from Valles and Powell in the span, to make it a 64-45 game with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Cougars eventually went ahead by as many as 21, and the Urban Knights never got back to within fewer than 15 points the rest of the way as Azusa Pacific grabbed its 17th win of the season.
On Saturday the Cougars will close out the regular season schedule against Holy Names at 1 p.m. before competing in the National Christian College Athletics Association West Region championships. A win over the Hawks would likely give the Cougars home court advantage in the regional tournament next week.