FRANKFURT, Ky. — Vanguard University senior women's basketball standout Nicole Ballestero loves shooting down Cougars.
The Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year, who earned NAIA All-American honors last season, scored 38 points to lead the Lions to a 97-47 first-round win over Cal State San Marcos in the first round of the NAIA Tournament on Thursday.
Vanguard advances to face John Brown of Arkansas (26-7) in Friday's second round at 6:45 p.m. PT. John Brown defeated Lyon of Arkansas, 70-53, in the first round on Thursday.
It was the third blowout win over the Cougars in three meetings this season for Vanguard (27-1), ranked No. 1 in the final NAIA Division I poll.
The Lions got back on the winning track after suffering their lone loss in the GSAC Tournament semifinals to Hope International on March 6.
Ballestero made 13 of 23 field-goal attempts on Thursday, including seven of 10 from three-point range. In three games against Cal State San Marcos (15-18), she scored 90 points and made 13 of 17 three-point attempts (76.5%). Ballestero has scored 91 points in her last two games, after erupting for a school-record 53 against Hope International.
Sophomore Samantha Doucette had 15 points, making six of 11 from the field, including two of three from three-point range to help the Lions shoot 52.4% from threedom as a team (11 for 21).
Senior Taylor Belmont had 12 points and eight assists for the winners, who are outscoring opponents an average of 28.4 points per game this season.
Vanguard shot 46.7% from the field, while limiting the Cougars to 26.4%, including a dismal two for 18 from three-point range (11.1%).
Vanguard won the rebounding battle, 55-43, and had just eight turnovers, nearly half as many as the Cougars (15).
— From staff reports