NAIA member schools from across the nation will converge on the Azusa Pacific campus for 4 games each day, 2 women’s contests going at 2 and 4 p.m. followed by a pair of men’s games at 6 and 8 p.m.
The tournament opens Monday at 2 p.m. with a women’s game between Golden State Athletic Conference member Hope International University and Ursuline College of Ohio. Azusa Pacific then hosts Southern Oregon University in a 4 p.m. contest. The evening competition begins at 6 p.m. with a men’s game between Hope International and the University of Montana-Western. The Cougar men take the court to host the University of Saint Francis of Joliet, Ill., at 8 p.m.
On Tuesday, the women again tip off the action with Hope International and Southern Oregon meeting at 2 p.m. followed by the Azusa Pacific-Ursuline women’s game at 4 p.m. Likewise, the men swap foes with Hope International taking on Saint Francis at 6 p.m. The Cougar men close out the tournament when they take on Montana-Western at 8 p.m.
Ursuline, an NAIA Division II program out of Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland, is currently 5-5 on the season after winning its past 2 games, its last on Dec. 13. Guard Whitney Blackburn tops the Arrows in scoring with a 17.9 avg., and has scored 68 points in the past 2 games, including a 34-point effort in which she sank a school-record 11 3-pointers in a victory over Carlow College.
Southern Oregon is currently 9-1 on the season and ranked No. 20 in the latest NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll. The Raiders won their first 8 games before falling to conference rival College of Idaho at home on Dec. 6. They came back to down Northwest College heading into the Christmas break. Junior forward Jacki Speer tops the team in scoring at 15.5 a game on the strength of back-to-back 20-point outings the past 2 games.
Hope International women have struggled from the outset of the season and have dropped all 6 games to date, including a pair of GSAC contests. The Royals are coming off a 19-17 campaign of a year ago in which they qualified for the GSAC Postseason Tournament. The arrival of freshman guard Lindsay Salazar, who is averaging over 11points of game, gives the Royals hope to rebound from its sluggish start.
The Azusa Pacific women have won 8 of their first 10 games and are currently ranked No. 5 in the latest NAIA Division I Coaches’ Poll. The Cougars played their first 7 games on the road and are home for only their third game this season. They’ve defeated nationally-ranked Carroll College, Lambuth University and Freed-Hardeman University on the road this season. Junior center Kristie Halaufia has been nearly unstoppable thus far, averaging 19.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Saint Francis is an NAIA Division I school out of the Chicagoland Athletic Conference. The Fighting Saints are currently 7-7 on the season following a 77-56 victory over East-West University on Dec. 20. USF has 4 different players averaging double figures in scoring, led by senior post Rob Rabenau’s 14.2 points a game.
Montana-Western comes to the Canyon City with a 7-5 record following it’s 90-78 nonconference victory over College of Idaho. The Bulldogs enjoy the perimeter game, averaging nearly 24 shots from the 3-point arc each contest. Senior guard Chad Myers leads the team in scoring at 15.4, and tallied 16 points in a loss to Azusa Pacific earlier this season.
The Hope International men are 2-5 to date and are coming off a 74-68 victory at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges Dec. 13. Junior college transfer Marcellus Cullors has been impressive to date, averaging a team-leading 18.2 points a contest.
Despite being 6-4 so far, Azusa Pacific is ranked No. 11 in the NAIA Division I, partly because of the Cougars’ 77-70 victory over previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked California Baptist University on Dec. 6. Guard Dominique Johnson, last year’s Tennessee junior college co-player of the year, leads the Cougars in scoring at 17.3 points a game. He scored a season-high 25 in Azusa Pacific’s last game vs. Rocky Mountain College on Dec. 20.
Admission for all 8 games is free. All 8 games can be followed via “live stats” on the Internet at www.apu.edu/athletics.
Schedule of Tournament Play
Monday, Dec. 29
Ursuline 83, Hope International 73 (final)
Azusa Pacific 68, Southern Oregon 67
Montana-Western 88, Hope International 83
Saint Francis vs. Azusa Pacific, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 30
Hope International vs. Southern Oregon, 2 p.m.
Ursuline vs. Azusa Pacific, 4 p.m.
Hope International vs. Saint Francis, 6 p.m.
Montana-Western vs. Azusa Pacific, 8 p.m.