IRVINE, Calif. -- When Azusa Pacific guard Alyssa Ferdaszewski went after a loose ball late in the game Thursday night against Hope International and came up with a injured shoulder it appeared she might have to miss some time in order to recover.
However, Ferdaszewski brushed aside all notions of not playing and delivered a solid performance as she scored a team-high 23 points, making 7-of-10 shots, leading the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Cougars over No. 24-ranked Concordia, 93-77, Saturday night at the CU Arena.
“A lot of people are in the same boat,” said Ferdaszewski. “Other people are hurt but you’ve got to put it out there for the team. Everyone has to sacrifice and contribute. This team is close on and off the court because we all know our roles.”
Azusa Pacific (12-3, 4-1) reeled off its ninth consecutive win and now sits alone in second place in the Golden State Athletic Conference having broken a tie with Concordia (8-6, 3-2) and idle California Baptist.
“Alyssa is a soldier,” said head coach Danelle Liles. “She played beat up last year. Tonight she was able to drive to the basket and hit the outside shot. She also came up with some big boards.”
As far as Ferdaszewski steering clear of future bumps and bruises, “We are trying to teach her to land a little more gracefully,” joked Liles.
In addition to Ferdaszewski’s game, the Cougars got outstanding play from Monica Somers who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds and Lindsey West who added 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
After a slow start, Azusa Pacific fell behind 10-3 out of the gate, the Cougars responded by attacking the basket relentlessly and settling in defensively. Ferdaszewski exploded for 16 first half points as she drained 5-of-6 shots – including all 3 from beyond the 3-point arc – as the Cougars went on to shoot 58.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
With the score tied at 28, Azusa Pacific broke the game open with a 12-3 run to move ahead 40-31.
After the initial 10-3 deficit, the Cougars outscored Concordia by 19 points as they assumed a commanding 49-37 lead.
Concordia initially tried to stifle the Cougars’ dribble penetration by featuring a 2-3 zone but Azusa Pacific thwarted that strategy. “We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve had off shooting nights but tonight we were on,” Liles said. “We shot them out of the zone and then got the whistles going to the basket against their man defense.”
Ferdaszewski agreed, “Our main objective was to move the ball and ourselves to force them to guard us. Nobody played selfishly and we made the extra pass.”
The Cougars continued to pour it on in the second half as they got to the hoop nearly at will. Azusa Pacific shot 43 free throws – making 28.
While it still may be a bit early to examine the conference race it isn’t premature to recognize the fact that the Cougars are playing good basketball and have reestablished themselves as a force after their 3-3 start. After losing to Biola to open GSAC play, they have won 4 straight conference games.
Azusa Pacific is also a perfect 5-0 away from home this season.
The Eagles were led by center Kristine Jensen who had a game-high 36 points and 14 rebounds.
The Cougars return home next Tuesday night when they will host California Baptist at the Felix Event Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.