Despite weekend success last week against Biola, the Cougars dropped two straight to the Eagles advancing their early-season record to .500.
Against Biola, Azusa Pacific’s women’s basketball team shot 43.9% from the field. It was the reason they left those two games with complete confidence. However, that narrative struggled to transition into the following two games, as the Cougars went on to play in a series against Concordia Irvine this past weekend and faced troublesome shooting.
In the series against Concordia, APU shot 38.8% from the field, along with a lackluster 25% from behind the arc. The opposition, on the other hand, thrived from three-point land. While the Eagles only shot 38 three-point attempts throughout the two games, they held a 46.9 shooting percentage from that area, revealing – even more – the Cougars’ weakness from the perimeter.
The first game of the series was the initial, and most apparent, indicator of that three-point shooting trend. The Cougars made only two of their 12 three-point shots, while Concordia made seven of their 16.
Friday’s contest was not only an anomaly for APU’s shooting but also their defense. Between the second and third quarter, they were outscored 43-21 in large part due to the turnover battle. During that stretch, APU turned the ball over 12 times, and by the end of the game that total favored the Eagles 18-12.
One of the more conspicuous performances from Friday came from senior guard Kayla Shaw. After leading the Cougars in scoring in both games against Biola, Shaw finished Friday’s game 0-7 from the field, along with just three rebounds and two assists. However, coach Hardeman says that one bad performance will not stop her from being one of the team’s most consistent scorers.
“No one practices more than Kayla. I have complete confidence in her,” head coach T.J. Hardeman said when asked about her struggles. “Concordia went into the game knowing how good of a shooter she is, and they just did a really great job of matching up with her and making sure she wouldn’t get open looks. She just needs to keep doing what she’s doing.”
While the second game was far more competitive with APU playing the role of hosts, the loss came down to a lackluster fourth-quarter performance. Despite entering the second quarter down 16-14, APU’s previous shooting woes seemed to be resolved. The Cougars shot 47% from the field throughout the second, yet even that upgrade wasn’t enough for APU to take the lead as they were still outscored by four points in those 10 minutes.
The third quarter was when it seemed that the Cougars were back on track. The home side grabbed complete momentum after outscoring the Eagles 24-13, mainly thanks to freshman forward Kelly Heimburger who scored 11 points during that run, going four of five from the field. The run gave the Cougars a five-point lead heading into the fourth, yet the Eagles would make a resounding comeback.
A balanced offensive attack from Concordia allowed them to outscore a suddenly cold Cougars offense by 13 points in the final quarter. Again, the Eagles’ three-point shooting was the catalyst for their run, as they made three of their four attempts from that spot.
Concordia’s effort from the free-throw line also gave them superiority over the quarter, as they went a perfect six for six. APU made only two of their attempted four free throws that period.
The 75-67 defeat was a second consecutive loss, only the fourth time the program had dropped two straight against PacWest opponents over the last five seasons. However, the Cougars will have no time to reflect on the loss, as they will need to prepare for an upcoming series against Point Loma. They have started their season 4-1 and most recently picked up a series sweep against Biola.
This season is structured in a way that teams must have short memories. Although there is a disappointment in the team’s weekend performance, the errors the team made over those two games must quickly be used as means for improvement. Coach Hardeman wants to make sure he inflicts that mindset into his roster.
“For us, it’s just about focusing ahead,” he noted. “Ultimately, with the way the season is structured, we won’t have time to celebrate a win or dwell in a loss. We’ll need to be prepared for either result. There’s always gonna be a chance to improve regardless, and with this season that chance will come quickly for us.”