APU: Kelly Hardeman 17 pts, 11 reb, 3 stl | Miriam Zabinsky 17 pts, 4 ast
DSU: Chermayne Moore 13 pts, 1 ast
The Cougars came away with a 90-60 win over Dixie State Saturday afternoon in the Felix Event Center. APU improved its record to 11-7 while Dixie State fell to 5-12. Azusa Pacific now leads the all-time series 6-0.
The Cougars were leading the game 26-16 when they called the first timeout of the game with just over seven minutes to go in the first period. The Cougars’ shooting performance brought the score to 43-22 at the half.
Dixie State shot 8-for-27 from the field and just 1-for-9 from behind the arc. The Cougars were more accurate, going 16-for-34 from the field and 3-for-6 from 3-point range. APU’s Miriam Zabinsky’s 10 points at the half led all scorers.
The first half was very aggressive, with both teams combining for 21 fouls. Dixie State committed the majority of them with 12, which gave the Cougars eight points from the line. The Cougars’ nine fouls gave the Red Storm five points.
“We didn’t feel like there was anything that dropped off inside defensively and offensively,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “They [backups] did a good job working together.”
Coming out of halftime, the Cougars exchanged basket-for-basket with Dixie State until a 14-3 run put APU up 67-35.
The Cougars never looked back from their dominating lead and ended the game on top 90-60. Both Miriam Zabinsky and Kelly Hardeman tied for the most points in the game with 17 each. Hardeman also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.
APU: Troy Leaf 24 pts, 4 ast, 1 stl
DSU: Zach Robbins 20 pts, 2 ast, 3 blk
Azusa Pacific defeated Dixie State 72-69 for the first time in series history (5-1). The Cougars’ nail-biting win lifted them to 17-2 (10-1 PacWest) and dropped the Red Storm to 11-6 (8-3 PacWest).
The Red Storm’s fast tempo gave them the early lead over the Cougars, forcing APU to use its first timeout when down 19-11. Azusa Pacific was able to make adjustments and went into halftime back just four points, 36-32.
The Cougars committed 10 fouls. The Red Storm capitalized on them, shooting 15-of-15 free throws. Dixie State shot 10-for-26 from the field while hitting 1-of-3 from 3-point range. Azusa Pacific went 13-for-36 from the field and shot 4-for-18 from 3-point territory.
“We started out going through the motions and let them dictate the pace for the first 20 minutes, then the last 10 minutes we said enough is enough, and defensively we really came down on them,” said senior guard Troy Leaf. “When we defend, things happen for us on offense.”
Dixie State came out of the half with a high-speed offense and scored a few quick baskets. When the media timeout came with just under 12 minutes to play, the Red Storm was on top 51-45.
The Cougars were able to rally and cut the lead to one, forcing Dixie State to use a timeout with the score 66-65 with just over two minutes of play left in the game.
Leaf gave the Cougars the two-point lead when he was fouled beyond the arc, making all three of his free throws with just over a minute left on the clock. APU maintained the lead and secured the victory 72-69. Leaf took command of the game, scoring 24 points and going 10-for-10 from the line.
“We had to give them different looks throughout the game. We had to dig pretty deep in our bag of tricks, things we have practiced all year. For moments like this, we pull them out,” said head coach Justin Leslie. “I think what really made the difference in this game was they’re young in some spots and we’re veteran, and there were some savvy plays that seniors make.”
The Cougars will head to Hawai’i for a series against the island schools, set to begin Jan. 29. They’ll return home Feb. 12 to take on BYU Hawai’i.