SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Head coach Danelle Liles has run her players through countless drills in preparation for the 2005-06 season. However, little did she know that the most extensive lay-up drill her team would run would take place in the team’s first game of the season.
Behind a career-high 30 points from Ashley Oakes, the NAIA’s No. 12-ranked Azusa Pacific broke open a slim 5-point halftime lead and crushed Westminster (Utah), 107-67.
Lindsey West added 22 points and 3 rebounds as the Cougars executed Liles’ up-tempo style to near perfection in the second half. “We played to our potential tonight,” said Liles. “We shot the lights out and didn’t turn the ball over. I’m big on taking what the defense gives you and a lot of our offense has options that we used tonight.”
Although the offense played a key role in opening up the tight game it was a defensive maneuver that got things started. “After halftime we went into a press to slow them down and that adjustment worked wonders. They took quick, off-balanced shots and then we could run,” Liles said.
The Cougars (1-0) made 22-of-31 (.710) second half field goals as 4 players reached double figures including Monica Somers who finished with 19 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds.
“I just tried to play smart and not try and do too much,” said Somers. “Tonight I just sat back instead of trying to take over. Our point guards did a great job of finding us and our wings would fly down the court off every defensive rebound. I got a lot of lay-ups because there was no weak side help.”
Those fast break points led to 25 Cougar assists on their 39 field goals. That type of efficiency is what Liles is looking for. “We want to push the ball and get easy opportunities,” she said.
Oakes previous career-high of 18 points came early last season but the sophomore guard nearly doubled that in the season opener. “She played phenomenal. She was confident and moved off the ball really well. Her cutting and slashing gave her good looks,” Liles added.
Jaclyn Rice continued to do what she does best which is knock down shots from beyond the 3-point line going 4-for-4 en route to her 14 points. Newcomer Meliame Hala’ufia added 7 points and 7 boards in 13 minutes off the bench.
The Griffins were led by Shalee Fackrell’s 33 points and 14 rebounds. However, she got little help elsewhere as the Cougars clamped down on her teammates.
The Cougars are now 3-0 in season-openers under Liles including twice beating the Griffins.
Azusa Pacific continues play tomorrow at the Holiday Inn Downtown SLC Invitational when it takes on Great Falls (Mont.) at 6 p.m. (MST).