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Masterful Performance

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January 4, 2003
Micah McDaniel
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Azusa Pacific 79
The Master’s 75

AZUSA, Calif. – It appears as though playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the NAIA is beginning to pay off for Azusa Pacific.

The Cougars, who played 8 nonconference games against team ranked in their respective top 25, pulled off their biggest win to date defeating the NAIA’s No. 10-ranked The Master’s College, 79-75, in Azusa.

The win comes against a Mustang team that upset No. 2-ranked Southern Nazarene (Okla.) just one week ago, and it is the Cougars’ first victory against a ranked team this year.

“This is a huge win for our confidence,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Matt Elofson. “The key for us is keeping our turnovers down. We are starting to head the right way. We knew we would take our lumps early, and I’ve been saying all along that our non-conference schedule would be tough, but I knew that if we could hang tough early on, then we start to turn the corner and play well.”

Azusa Pacific led for all of 33 seconds of the game. The Mustangs’ Becky Bracelin buried TMC’s fourth consecutive 3-pointer to complete a 12-2 Mustang run that turned an 11-2 Cougar lead into a 14-13 Mustang advantage with 11:52 to go in the first half. The lead was short-lived, however, as Jaclyn Rice hit a jumper just 33 seconds later to wrestle the lead away—a lead the Cougars never lost the rest of the night.

Junior Nicolette Dresback was the offensive catalyst all night. She finished with 20 points, but hit 7-of-11 shots, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

“I ended the last game with a 3 and that gave my confidence a big shot,” said Dresback, who had connected on just 3 treys coming into the game. “Tonight, it was just a case of me hitting my first shot, then feeling good the rest of the way. This is such a confidence builder for us, and we are beginning to learn how to play together and realizing that we really are a good team.”

At one point in the second half, the Cougars led by 15 points (61-46) with 10:53 to play and appeared to be cruising on in for an easy win. But the Mustangs refused to give-in and responded with a 15-4 spurt over a 4:01 span to climb within 4 (65-61) with 6:52 to go. Leslie DuBois keyed the run, scoring 7 consecutive points to end the run. Nevertheless, the Cougars were able to close the door as the Mustangs got no closer than 3 points in the final 5 minutes.

Dresback scored the first 9 points of the contest, keyed by a pair of treys, as the Cougars took a 9-0 lead out of the gate. The Cougars led 11-2 less than 4 minutes in when the Mustangs responded with 3 straight treys of their own to tie the game 11-11 at the 13:12 mark.

A pair of Marie Dyk free throws stemmed the tide momentarily, but Bracelin’s trey gave the Mustangs their first and only lead of the night. The Cougars answered with a 15-4 run to push the lead up to 10 (28-18) with 6:43 to go, and the Mustangs got no closer than 4 points the rest of the half.

Kelsey Hudson finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Dresback added 6 steals and 3 rebounds. Lindsey West chipped in with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

“Teams can’t key on one player in our line-up,” said Elofson. “Each night we have a different player that has the ability to score, so it makes tough to guard us.”

With a line-up featuring 7 players either 6 feet or taller, the Mustangs appeared to have a decided advantage in the paint, and they tried to use that advantage all night using 6-3 Amy Van Doesberg (12 points) and the 6-3 DuBois (22 points). However, the Cougars were able to stand their ground and actually outscored the Mustangs, 36-18, in the paint.