For as long as The Master’s College men’s basketball teams can remember, Murchison Gym on the campus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara has been a house of horrors.
On Tuesday that changed, at least for one evening, as the Mustangs bolted to a big lead and then held off the 16th-ranked Warriors down the stretch to record a 64-60 upset.
The huge road win not only halted a two-game losing skein but also stopped what looked like the beginning of another mid-season swoon that has plagued the Mustangs over the past couple of years.
The victory also returned the Mustangs to first place in the TMC where they join three other clubs with a 5-2 record (13-5 overall).
Buoyed by a 12-3 burst that bridged the halves, the Mustangs took seeming command of the game with 15 minutes left to play when Devin Dyer’s three-pointer gave them a 40-23 lead.
A quick 5-0 spurt by the Warriors cut the deficit to 12 points but a Leif Karlberg three-pointer and an Anthony Cammon three-point play boosted the advantage to a game-high 18 points, 46-28.
Another Cammon jumper with 8:37 remaining handed the Mustangs a 53-36 lead and everything was pointing toward a rare win in Santa Barbara.
However, Westmont wasn’t about to let that happen or so they thought. Using a 10-2 run, the Warriors carved a big slice out of the Mustangs’ advantage, pulling within 55-46 on a Christopher Miller jumper with 5:20 left to play.
A Karlberg trey restored a double-figure lead but the Warriors kept coming. Limiting the Mustangs to just two points in a four-minute window, the hosts rallied to tie the score, using a 14-2 run to knot the game at 60 on two Preston Branson free throws with 38 seconds left in the game.
Nineteen seconds later, Cammon answered with a pair of his own freebies and when Branson missed a shot with nine ticks left on the clock, Chris Patureau corralled the rebound leading to what turned out to be Dyer’s game-clinching two free throws.
The Mustangs, who wound up the evening shooting 48% from the field, hit at a 55% rate in the second half.
Although the Mustangs never trailed in the second half the same could not be said during a see-saw first period which produced four ties and seven lead changes.
The Mustangs’ first lead of the evening came at 6-5 on a Karlberg bucket and a modest 4-0 spurt, featuring four Cammon points, put them up 10-8 with just over 12 minutes left in the first half.
That didn’t last long as the Warriors vaulted ahead 12-10, setting up a three-and-a-half minute span where the clubs traded the lead twice and were tied on three other occasions.
The final knot (17-all) was snapped on a Mike Harmon three-ball with 6:42 remaining in the first half and was part of a 14-4 run that sent the Mustangs to halftime up 30-21. Two other trifectas, one each from Karlberg and Anthony Wells, were major components of the run while four points by Cammon led to the lead at the break.
Cammon paced three Mustangs in double figures with 17 points, going 7-12 from the field, to go along with seven rebounds. Dyer and Karlberg, who buried a trio of three-pointers, finished with 11 points apiece. Patureau yanked down a team-best nine rebounds.
Having stopped their first losing streak of the season, the Mustangs try to make it two wins in a row Saturday evening when they host Pt. Loma Nazarene in a 7:30pm start in Bross Gym. The Sea Lions are one of three other teams that share first place with the Mustangs.