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2013-14 NAIA DI Women’s Basketball Game of the Week – No. 4

January 29, 2014
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By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern

NAIA Game of the Week – No. 4
No. 17 Hope International (Calif.) (15-4, 4-1 GSAC) at No. 1 Vanguard (Calif.) (16-0, 5-0 GSAC)
Saturday, Feb. 1 | 5:30 p.m. PST | The Pit | Costa Mesa, Calif.
Live Video – Provided by Vanguard

• First place in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) will be on the line Saturday, when No. 17 Hope International (Calif.) travels to Costa Mesa, Calif., to take on No. 1 Vanguard (Calif.) at 5:30 p.m. PST in The Pit. Vanguard currently sits atop the conference at 5-0, while Hope International shares the No. 2 position with The Master’s (Calif.) at 4-1.
• Saturday’s contest is the first of two regular-season meetings between the Top 25 teams, with the second coming on Feb. 22 on the Royals’ home floor.
• With 59 points and four-of-eight first-place votes, Vanguard was picked to win the GSAC championship in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll on Oct. 21. Two-time defending GSAC champion and defending national champion Westmont (Calif.) was picked to finish second with 57 points and three first-place votes. Hope International, which finished 4-10 in the GSAC last season, was picked to finish sixth.
• Vanguard has finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the GSAC in nine of the past 10 seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2010-11, when the Lions went 12-8 in the league. The Lions last claimed the GSAC regular-season crown in 2009-10. Over the past 10 years, Vanguard is 168-24 in the GSAC. During that same period, Hope International is 41-151 in the league and has never finished above .500. The Royals best season was 2005-06, when they finished sixth in the GSAC with a 10-10 record.
• The Lions are undefeated over their past 20 meetings with the Royals.
• Vanguard has qualified for 12-straight NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships, dating back to 2002. Hope International is looking to qualify for its first-ever National Championship berth this season.
• Vanguard is one of two remaining undefeated teams in NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball, along with Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (19-0).
• Three of Hope International’s four losses have come against ranked opponents: then-No. 18 Carroll (Mont.), 58-45, on Nov. 21; then-No. 4 Westminster (Utah), 60-52, on Dec. 27; and then-No. 9 The Master’s, 84-72, on Jan. 14. The Royals only other loss of the season was to Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.), 86-81, on Dec. 28.
• The Lions of Vanguard are led by senior guards Nicole Ballestero, a returning First-Team All-America selection, and Taylor Belmont. Ballestero leads the team and ranks second nationally in points per game (23.07). She also leads the team and ranks third nationally in 3-point field goals percentage (.500). Belmont leads the team—and the nation—in assists per game (7.67), while also leading the team and ranking sixth nationally in assist to turnover ratio (3.11).
• Ballestero had her best performance in the Lions’ 94-51 win over La Sierra (Calif.) on Dec. 7, when she drained a career-high eight 3-pointers on 8-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc and scored a season-high 35 points.
• Belmont has set new single-game career-highs in points, assists, rebounds and blocks this season. Her best game came in the Lions’ 87-32 victory over Biola (Calif.) on Jan. 18. She grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and dished out a career-high 14 assists in the contest, while also chipping in 14 points. The performance is one of just seven triple-doubles in NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball this season.
• As a team, Vanguard leads the NAIA in assist to turnover ratio (1.78) and scoring margin (+31.40), while also ranking among the top 10 nationally in free throw percentage (2nd, .767), turnover margin (3rd, +9.13), field goal percentage defense (3rd, .341), scoring defense per game (3rd, 54.07), scoring offense per game (4th, 85.47), assists per game (4th, 18.40), 3-point field goal percentage (5th, .383), total rebound defense (6th, 32.73), field goal percentage (8th, .452) and total rebound margin (8th, +10.27).
• The Royals of Hope International are led by senior guard Andrina Rendon, who leads the team in points (21.06), rebounds (10.89) and steals (2.28) per game. She’s also second on the team in blocks (9) and third on the team in assists (47). Nationally, Rendon ranks among the top 10 in defensive rebounds per game (2nd, 8.67), points per game (6th, 21.06), total rebounds per game (9th, 10.89) and total scoring (10th, 379).
• Rendon’s best performances came against Eastern Oregon on Nov. 15, when she scored a career-high 36 points, and against Concordia (Calif.) on Jan. 18, when she grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.
• As a team, Hope International ranks among the top 10 nationally in free throw percentage (6th, .735) and assist to turnover ratio (8th, 1.15).

Additional Notes from Around NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball
(As of Jan. 29, 2014)
• From Feb. 7-17, women’s basketball teams across the nation, including programs from both NAIA women’s basketball divisions, will participate in Play 4Kay events to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The events will support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charitable organization named after former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) founding member, Kay Yow. For more information, click here.
• Two teams remain unbeaten: Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (19-0) and Vanguard (Calif.) (16-0). 
• Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) became the first NAIA program to reach the 20-win plateau with its win over Montana Tech, 85-69, on Jan. 18. 
• Four teams are still searching for their first victory.
• Vanguard has been ranked atop the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll in all six editions this season (includes preseason poll). Tuesday’s top billing is the 34th all-time for the Lions, dating back to 1999-2000. For the complete release, click here.
• Chasity Kearney of Tougaloo (Miss.) was named this week’s NAIA National Division I Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. For the complete release, click here.
• Lewis-Clark State head coach Brian Orr won his 300th game when the Warriors defeated Langston (Okla.), 81-67, on Nov. 9. Orr, the winningest coach in Lewis-Clark State history, is the 12th active coach to reach the 300-win plateau. 
• Other Top 25 matchups this week:
     o Tuesday – No. 14 Westmont (Calif.) def. No. 9 The Master’s (Calif.), 59-54
     o Thursday – No. 20 Baker (Kan.) at No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)
     o Saturday – No. 17 Montana State-Northern at No. 13 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)