Courtesy of ART U Athletics
Steadily improving as the game continued, Academy of Art women’s basketball began the calendar year with a 66-53 triumph over Fresno Pacific inside the Sunbirds’ Special Events Center on Monday. Another double-double for sophomore forward/center Alisha Wilson and 15 points from sophomore guard Jadence Clifton propelled ART U to outscore FPU 33-20 in the second half, including a difference-making 9-1 run, resulting in the team’s second consecutive Pacific West Conference victory.
“It feels great putting a pair of wins together,” said Head Coach Lindsey Foster. “We’ve got some great energy right now.”
Despite scoring first, the Urban Knights found themselves down 8-4 early on, but a 3-pointer by freshman guard Madison Johnson soon helped cut the deficit to a single point at 10-9. Free throws and a layup in transition by Wilson then knotted the contest at 13-13, and each side would briefly hold the lead in the final eight seconds of the opening quarter, which ended with FPU ahead 17-16.
Senior guard Lauryn Manns thrived in the second quarter, opening with a triple to put her team in front 19-17, adding a putback on an offensive rebound to keep ART U ahead, converting free throws for a 25-25 tie, and scoring a transition layup for a four-point advantage, 29-25, to give her nine points in the frame. Unfortunately, Manns picked up a fourth foul in the final minutes while the Sunbirds retied the score before the teams’ eighth tie of the day at 33-33 going into halftime on Clifton’s putback to beat the buzzer.
Fresno Pacific worked a four-point lead early in the second half, but another Johnson triple returned the squads to a 38-38 deadlock. The third quarter would conclude with a 7-0 run by Academy of Art as Clifton tossed in free throws, Wilson scored down low, and junior guard Ashana Hinds connected from deep with 20 seconds left for the visitors’ largest lead of the afternoon at 52-45 heading to the fourth.
Following over two and a half scoreless minutes to begin the final frame, a layup by Hinds helped maintain the margin. Soon, two triples from Clifton over two minutes kept the difference at double digits the rest of the way toward the eventual 63-53 victory.
“Things are starting to click for us right now as far as execution goes on the offensive end,” Foster said. “Specific to this game, we talked about what it meant to hold the lead, understanding time/score, and most importantly, composure due to us being in foul trouble.”
The two straight wins elevate ART U to 3-9 overall and 3-4 in PacWest action. Wilson logged her sixth double-double of the season (extending her current streak to four straight) and 20th of her collegiate career with 16 points (on 5-for-10 shooting from the field) and 15 rebounds, as well as three assists and two steals. Clifton finished with 15 points (her highest total since Nov. 18), adding eight rebounds to tie her season-high with the first two blocks of her Urban Knight career, while Manns contributed 10 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Ultimately, all seven Knights scored at least two points, grabbed at least three rebounds, and recorded at least one steal in the contest.
“We were in foul trouble and needed all hands on deck,” Foster said. “We need that every night, but we were dealt with some adversity, and our team rose to the challenge. It was great to see and great to see our growth with the adversity.”
Dropping their eighth straight game, Fresno Pacific falls to 4-9 overall and 0-7 in conference play. The Sunbirds were held to 26.5 percent shooting from the field (the lowest for an Academy of Art opponent this season) and thus had no players reach double figures offensively (Rachel Berry and Julie Ramirez had nine points apiece).
After traveling out of the state next, ART U will begin its three-game Hawaii road trip by challenging Hawaii Pacific on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. HT (4 p.m. PT).