Defense of No. 1 Azusa Pacific hands Warriors first loss
AZUSA, Calif. – The defense of the No. 1-ranked team in the NAIA proved to be a little too much for the Lewis-Clark State College women’s basketball team to handle on the road on Friday night. The No. 5-ranked Warriors were tagged with their first loss of the season as they fell to top-ranked Azusa Pacific University 54-45.
“We’re really disappointed,” said LCSC head coach Brian Orr. “When we tied it up in the second half I looked up at the clock and I thought we were going to get them.”
The game was closer than what the final score suggests as the two teams were tied twice in the second half including a tie at 41-41 with just over five minutes left in regulation. However, following the pattern of the game, tough defense caused the Warriors to commit four turnovers in the final four minutes and the highest ranked team in the nation took advantage.
“It was a great defensive battle,” said Orr. “Our offensive execution hurt us, but you have to credit their defense. Their full-court press took us out of rhythm.”
Overall, the Warriors committed 25 turnovers in the game to Azusa Pacific’s 18, and the Cougars had a 19-13 edge in points scored off of turnovers.
With the win Azusa Pacific, last year’s national championship runner-up, moves to 3-0, while the loss drops LC to 7-1. The two teams met once last year with the Warriors coming out on top 72-62.
Beyond tough defense and untimely turnovers for the Warriors, one of the biggest stories in Friday’s game was the play of Azusa Pacific center Amber Williams. The 6-foot senior finished with a massive double-double of 21 points and 21 rebounds and played a major role in slowing down the Warriors’ usually dominant inside game.
“She’s such a strong player,” said Orr about Williams. “She was just a warrior on the boards.”
Despite averaging 78.1 points per game and having scored 110 points in the last game they played, the Warriors were unable to find an offensive rhythm against the high-pressure Cougars.
LCSC post players Kirsi Voshell and Alyssa Fierro did a good job of rounding rebounds up on the defensive end, but faced the same formidable challenge to score as their teammates did on the other end of the floor.
Tasha Bishop led the Warriors with 13 points as she hit 5-of-9 attempts from the floor. Heavily guarded, Jasmine Stohr finished with 12 points to go with a game-high four blocks and two steals. Voshell finished with six points, and Fierro and Brittaney Niebergall had five points apiece.
Briana Hall was second for the Cougars in scoring as she contributed 10 points, five assists, and four steals.
With few open shots to be had, neither team shot a particularly high percentage as APU hit 31.9 percent and LC 30.1 percent. With the presence of Williams, the Cougars were able to hold a 34-18 advantage in points scored in the paint.
Azusa Pacific finished with slim leads in multiple categories including leads of 9-7 in steals, 11-8 in assists, and 51-49 in rebounds.
Neither team shot too well from the outside or from the foul line. LCSC was 3-for-14 from deep (21.4 percent) and 8-of-14 at the line (57.1), and Azusa Pacific was 1-of-14 from the outside (7.1), and 9-of-18 at the line (50.0).
The Warriors opened the game with a 9-2 lead with 12:55 left in the first half, but foul trouble for Stohr, Voshell, Bishop, and Niebergall helped change the momentum and the Cougars were able to pull in front 25-20 at the half. The Cougars’ largest lead of the game of 10 came five minutes into the second half.
“This is a game we have to learn from and put behind us. We’ll learn from our mistakes—and it will make us better.”
On Saturday the Warriors will head to Irvine, Calif., to face Concordia University at 5:30 p.m. The Warriors topped Concordia 76-55 last week during the Greg Jose/Twin Rivers Physical Therapy Classic.