After playing three exhibitions in a six-day span, The Master’s University men’s basketball team was ready to start the regular season.
They did so in Jekyl and Hyde fashion Friday evening, shooting efficiently from the field while overcoming a plethora of mistakes in an 83-74 win over the University of Antelope Valley in a first-round game of the West Coast Baptist Classic in Lancaster.
The Mustangs, who shot a solid 55% (16-29) from the field over the opening 20 minutes, led 45-31 at halftime. Meanwhile, they put the defensive clamps on the Pioneers, holding UAV to 32% accuracy in the first half.
In the second stanza, the Mustangs were outscored by five (43-38) despite shooting at a 59% clip. They finished the evening connecting on 57% (29-51) of their shots, highlighted by a 9-18 showing from behind the arc.
Turnovers were the reason why the Mustangs took just over 50 shots, committing 29 and causing first-year head coach Kelvin Starr to say, “We played a very scrappy UAV team. We were able to dominate every statistical category but one. That many turnovers tells us we have work to do.”
Junior transfer Lawrence Russell paced the Mustangs with 21 points, going 7-14 from field while pulling down nine rebounds and dishing out a game-high five assists. Senior Reid Shackelford nearly matched his teammate’s output, hitting 5-10 from long distance en route to 19 points.
Another junior transfer, Matthew McClain, came off the bench to record a double-double, pouring in 13 points and ripping down a game-high 13 rebounds. McClain’s effort led the Mustangs’ dominating 44-18 advantage on the boards.
With host West Coast Baptist waiting for them tomorrow evening, the Mustangs have little time to dwell on their season-opening victory and Starr likes that. He said, “We’re looking forward to getting back after it against the Eagles on Saturday.”
The clubs will tip it off Saturday evening at 7:00pm.