Strong shooting from the guard position and a phenomenal defensive performance helps the Cougars earn another win at home
After losing their first game of the season on Friday night, Azusa Pacific’s women’s basketball team had a strong offensive and defensive performance on Saturday night and improved to a 7-1 overall record.
The Cougars hosted the West Region Crossover Classic, where they played both Seattle Pacific and Western Washington. On Friday, the Cougars lost 69-80 to a strong Seattle Pacific team, which also beat UC San Diego in the Felix Event Center to improve to 5-0 on their season. APU was quick to correct their mistakes in the 24-hour turnaround, where they would beat the Vikings of Western Washington by a score of 84-68.
“We did really well today. Yesterday we struggled offensively and defensively on the rebounding end, so today that was our main focus and I think that really helped us get in the flow of things,” senior guard Abbigail Goodsell said.
Western Washington would happen to out-rebound APU, yet the Cougars would dominate defensively, forcing 26 turnovers which resulted in 36 points for APU.
“We were disappointed to lose [against Seattle Pacific] and we shot the ball worse than we shot it all year, but we responded today and caused a lot of turnovers,” head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “It was more of a style clash of big against small. The turnovers we were able to cause and shots we were able to get made it harder for them to set up.”
At first, both teams seemed to be evenly knotted-up with the first quarter ending with a tied score of 19-19. In the second, however, the Cougars’ offense and defense came alive as they would put up 26 points to give themselves a 45-32 lead by halftime.
APU would never look back or allow Western Washington to catch up. In the second half, APU would continue their dominate defense and scoring to win 84-68.
“We came out here with energy on defense, and that is what kickstarted our offense,” sophomore guard Zoe March said. “Our team rallies together when we feel like we’re at a low, and it’s really encouraging to be along teammates that push you to be better. When they go hard, it encourages you to go hard. We brought good energy tonight, especially on defense and I was really proud of everything that they gave today.
APU’s offense was fueled through their guards, as Goodsell would have a team high 22 points, along with five steals on the night. March would have a career-best 18 points on the night, along with 11 assists.
Hardeman had a lot of praise for March and her strong offensive performance.
“It was Zoe’s career-best game. She scored 18 points on eight shots, 11 assists…she was setting people up, she was defending, she was scoring, she just wasn’t our leading rebounder, but she’s working on it,” Hardeman said jokingly. “It was a very good effort on her part.”
In addition, junior guard Gina Henderson and sophomore guard Rachel Bozlee would come off the bench to score 12 points each. All of Bozlee’s points would come from her four three-pointers, and nearly half of the Cougars 27 field goals came from behind the arc.
“We’re definitely solid across the board with guards. That’s something we didn’t have last year, where we are stacked at the position,” Goodsell said.
Hardeman also acknowledged how the strong play and competition at the guard position has allowed his players to endure well against other teams.
“We have so many quick guards, and that’s one of our strengths; we have so many, so we need the pressure to tire ourselves out [in practice] and the goal is to tire [our opponent] out as well.”
The Cougars will head out to San Diego next weekend for the UCSD Thanksgiving Classic, where they will take on Cal State San Marcos on Friday, Nov. 24 and UC San Diego on Saturday, Nov. 25.
Although the next two upcoming games will be against solid opponents, the Cougars’ players are ready for the challenge.
“We’re excited to play San Marcos again. Last year, when we played at that tournament, we did not do well, so we’re coming back and are ready to redeem ourselves,” Goodsell said.
“We look at it as we’re going to battle and we’re going to work together to honor the Lord, so everyday we’re going to come at it hard in practice and with that, we will be prepared for this coming weekend,” March said.