Cougars pick up 12th win of the season with 74-45 victory on Thursday night

Coming off a brief road trip where they won their last two contests, Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team returned home and made it three straight victories after defeating the Concordia Eagles 74-45. 

Unlike their previous two matchups where they accumulated a lead due to their impressive first-half play, the second half in this game proved to be the deciding factor. However, the Cougars still established their superiority early.

The first quarter was all APU, as the Cougars outscored their opponent 17-8. However, in the second quarter, APU took their foot off the gas, especially defensively. APU did increase their lead to a 23-10 favor with 7:50 left in the first half, but then Concordia began to chip at their lead. 

The Eagles eventually found a way to cut their 13-point deficit to a much more manageable four-point difference with 1:04 left in the second. However, the Cougars scored two quick buckets before the end of the second quarter, and they entered their locker room with a 36-28 lead.

“We just wanted to keep the pressure on,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “It was important for us to keep playing team basketball, keep going for shots and keep putting in the extra effort towards getting boards. And thankfully we did that in the second half.”

It was a slow start for both teams in the third quarter. At the six-minute mark, there was a combined total of three buckets made, two of them by the Cougars. APU began playing their best basketball following the brief offensive drought and went on a 12-0 run. 

Entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars held an 18-point advantage. When the final buzzer rang, the Cougars celebrated the 74-45 victory, improving to 12-3 on the season. APU also advanced their conference record to 6-3.

Senior guard Savanna Hanson continued to lead the Cougars in scoring, finishing the game with a career-high 21 points. 

“Most of our shots were assisted, so we were finding each other well,” Hanson said. “I spend a lot of extra time trying to perfect my shot, and my teammates set me up perfectly. It all fell into place.”

Senior guard Zoe March also had a phenomenal night, going 6-10 from the field and scoring 14 points. Freshman Molly Whitmore led the way off the bench, scoring 10 points and acquiring three rebounds in 14 minutes played.

The Cougars had important contributors from all over their roster. Nine players for APU played 12 minutes or more, and each of these players scored at least one basket. Out of the 74 points scored in total, only two were from the free-throw line, and the team assisted 27 of their 32 baskets on the night. It was very efficient team basketball, and Hardeman noticed this.

“The level of competition we have on this team is great for practice, and we have so much talent on this team that is capable of playing consistently throughout games,” said Hardeman. “Tonight, the key was being able to play a lot of people. We did a good job adjusting to that and keeping the tempo and pace up.”

The Cougars are officially halfway through their season and currently are ranked second in the PacWest Conference. March said it’s important for the team and the locker room to not get complacent and continue competing intensely.

“We can’t start taking wins for granted. Every win is a blessing and it speaks to our hard work in practice,” March said. “We just need to continue with the mentality that each victory will speak into existence the hard work that we bring on the court.”

APU will host three straight conference matchups. Their next contest is on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 5:15 p.m. against the Hawai’i Hilo Vulcans.