RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- If anyone on the Azusa Pacific roster is ever told not to shoot a 3-pointer California Baptist would like to be there to see it.
The Cougars hit a barrage of triples – a school record 17 – and rode their hot shooting from behind the arc to an 87-75 win over the Lancers, Tuesday night in Riverside.
Azusa Pacific (19-7, 11-5) got a career-high 31 points from a revitalized Monica Somers, who was feeling it from 3-point range. She made a career-high 7-of-9 treys as part of her terrific night shooting the ball.
“She has been putting in a lot of work on her shooting,” said head coach Danelle Liles. “We haven’t shot like that as a team in about a month and it was nice to see it tonight.”
The Cougars previous record for 3’s was 15 which they accomplished last season against Christian Heritage.
Even though the Cougars were hoisting 3’s with much success against a packed in defense, California Baptist was content to stay in its zone and found itself in a huge hole.
The ball movement on offense was solid as the Cougars constantly reversed the ball to the weak side in hopes of gashing the Lancers (12-13, 6-9) with dribble penetration. Often times it wasn’t there, so they shot over it leading to 22 assists on 30 made field goals.
Point guard Sarah Leathers had a good all around game pouring in 22 points and distributing a game-high 9 assists.
Azusa Pacific led by double digits the entire second half but California Baptist did not go quietly as it battled back when Leslie Newkirk triggered a 9-0 run that cut a 17-point Cougar lead into a 79-71 advantage with 3:39 to play in the game. However, Leathers made 1-of-2 free throws to put the lead back to 9 points and then, following a missed 3 by Nicole Davis, Alyssa Ferdaszewski sank a pair from the charity stripe to reassert the Cougars’ lead.
The Cougars shot the lights out at the newly refurbished Van Dyne Gym in the first half, making 54 percent of their shots. Perhaps the Lancers defensive struggles was best illustrated on the final play of the period when Somers hauled in a long pass and flipped the ball off the glass and in at the buzzer while drawing a foul.
"I think our shot selection was really good," Liles said. "They were double teaming in the post and we did a good job of kicking the ball out to open shooters."
California Baptist did not get back and defend in transition against Somers which was problematic for the Lancers. The Cougars raced out to a 57-38 halftime lead behind its suddenly resurgent 3-point shooting and effective fast break that put the Lancers on their heels.
Somers was a menace with her consistent penetration which set up her outside shot. Her 20 first half points led all scorers while Leathers added 15 first half points – all on 3-point field goals. She also proved to be an excellent distributor with 7 assists as the Cougars distributed the ball well. They recorded 15 assists on their first 21 made baskets.
The game opened as a close contest in the opening minutes but Azusa Pacific quickly began to pull away with an 18-6 run that transformed an 11-10 deficit into a 28-17 lead at the 12:05 mark. It then blew the game wide open with a 16-5 run fueled by triples from Leathers and Jaclyn Rice which lead to a 52-32 advantage with 2:09 remaining until halftime.
Rice’s 2 treys in the first half giving her 154 in her career, moving her into second place on the Cougars’ all-time 3-point chart.
Noelle Conroy led California Baptist with 17 points.
The win gives Azusa Pacific the momentum of back-to-back victories as it heads into a showdown against Point Loma Nazarene for second place on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Felix Event Center.