Women’s basketball team started the season 3-0 for the third time of their last four seasons, and have their eyes on a National title this season
The APU women’s basketball team kicked off their season this past weekend with three straight wins at the NCAA Division II Tip Off Classic, which took place over the weekend at Santiago Canyon College. The Cougars made a strong statement beating Wisconsin-Parkside (105-79), Wayne State (89-81) and Young Harris (87-76).
“When you start early like this, you do it to highlight what you’re good at and what you need to work on,” head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “It’s exciting to see that, and yet have the success we did also.”
The Cougars came into this season ranked as the 16th best team in the nation. However, the Cougars were without starting guard and last year’s second team All-PacWest performer, Abigail Goodsell. Goodsell suffered a concussion in practice prior to the start of the season, and wasn’t made available to start the season.
“Abby [Goodsell] was the leading scorer from last year and a captain, but it was nice to see us run, score and operate with other people stepping up,” Hardeman said.
Nonetheless, the Cougars came out in their season opener firing on all cylinders, beating Wisconsin-Parkside 105-79. The Cougars would jump out to 24-point lead by halftime, and grew the lead to 28 points in the later part of the third quarter. Wisconsin-Parkside turned the ball over 25 times, which the Cougars converted into 28 points off of the turnovers.
The Cougars dominated in almost every facet of the game. They outscored the Rangers in the paint 42-20, and 20-10 in second chance points. Five different players were able to tally double digit points in the game.
Senior forward Gabrielle Kaiser and senior guard Tara Casey, both had a game-high 22 points. Casey was 6-for-13 from 3-point range, and shot 50 percent from the field. Kaiser would shoot 47 percent from the field, but scored all 22 of her points in only 23 minutes of action.
“I think it was really good for me, because it was our first game and I was able to start out pretty strong,” Casey said.
The Cougars also scored 100 points in a game for the first time since the 2015-2016 season, when they put up 103 points against Concordia.
“Our philosophy we have is that we want to run. Offensively we get down in a hurry, and we’re going to take the first good shot,” Hardeman said. “We want the game to be at a fast pace.”
On Saturday, APU would face a tougher test as they beat Wayne State 89-81. The Cougars came out strong the first quarter, as they led 25-10. Their lead grew to 41-22 in the second quarter, but Wayne State would claw their way back into the game in the third.
The Wildcats would cut the deficit to six points in the third quarter, but APU would go on a 10-2 run to end the quarter and extend their lead back to 12 going into the fourth. Wayne State wouldn’t give in though. The Wildcats would once again cut the lead to six, but failed to draw any closer than that.
APU would once again control most areas of the game, including their bench outscoring the Wildcats bench 32-13. However, the Cougars gave Wayne State 34 free throw attempts on the night, which helped them climb back into the game several times.
APU had multiple players score double-digit points. Sophomore guard Savanna Hanson led the way with a team high 19 points for the Cougars.
After winning back-to-back games to start the season, the Cougars would defeat Young Harris 87-76 on Sunday to wrap up the weekend of games. The Cougars didn’t take their foot off of the gas pedal, jumping out to a 45-28 lead by halftime, and APU’s lead grew to 21 points in the third quarter. However, Young Harris was able to pull within single digits in the fourth quarter, but failed to score on their final two possessions of the game.
The Cougars defense stepped up against Young Harris, forcing 27 turnovers which led to 33 points.
Hanson once again led the Cougars in scoring, with a season high 30 points. Hanson drained 3-of-6 shots from behind the arc, and shot 50 percent overall from the field. Kaiser also put together 18 points in 28 minutes of play.
“I think it was just one of those games where the ball rolled my way a lot, but it wasn’t my favorite performance of the weekend,” Hanson said. “In other games I was rebounding more and doing more, but overall I was pleased.”
Sophomore guard Zoe March, played well with her counterpart Goodsell being out. March notched at least 5 assists in each of the first three games this season.
The Cougars started the season 3-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. Hardeman is excited about the future of this season, but understands what they need to improve on.
“It’s going to be a fun year, because we have a lot of people who can contribute,” Hardeman said. “We want to win a National Championship. So, if we want to get where we want to go, we have to get better defensively.”
The Cougars’ next two games will be on Friday and Saturday in the Felix Event Center against Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Dominguez Hills in the PacWest/CCAA Conference Challenge.