The game of basketball becomes so much easier and much more fun when a team is hitting its shots. That’s what The Master’s College women’s basketball team discovered Saturday evening in a 78-57 drubbing of Pt. Loma Nazarene in Bross Gym.
Connecting on its highest shooting percentage (46.7) in two months, the Mustangs used a hot start in the second half to turn the game into a runaway and snapping a four-game losing streak in the process. The win improved the Mustangs to 9-11 overall and 2-6 in the GSAC.
After forging a 34-24 halftime lead with a solid opening 20 minutes of play, the Mustangs came out of the locker room sizzling, hitting seven of their first 11 shots, including five from behind the arc, and outscored the Sea Lions 22-9 over the first six minutes.
Junior Kimmy Iverson, who set a career-high with a team-leading 20 points, fueled the run by draining a trio of three-pointers while Zoe Scott and Whitney Best each buried one.
Iverson’s final trifecta to cap the skein was the last Mustang point for over three minutes but the Sea Lions were unable to take advantage as the TMC defense limited them to only two points in the same span.
Senior Morgan Schwegler’s 10-foot jumper with 10:57 left to play ended the club’s scoreless streak and keyed an 8-2 spurt that Lauren Labat finished off nearly three minutes later with another three-ball to give the Mustangs their largest lead of the evening, 64-37.
Iverson’s sixth and final trey of the evening, establishing another career-best, put the Mustangs up 70-45 at the 6:41 mark. As the clock wound down, the Sea Lions ripped off eight straight points to take the deficit under 20 (73-55) but a Schwegler jumper and an Ella Joines bucket boosted the lead to 77-55 and the Mustangs cruised home from there.
The Mustangs’ path to their halftime advantage was a methodical one. Falling behind 5-1, the team responded with a 6-0 burst ignited by a Lena Rivera layup and capped by consecutive baskets from Scott. The Mustangs never trailed again although the Sea Lions did knot the score on two Nyla Bailey charity tosses with 14:39 left in the opening period.
But, Joines did something about that, draining a three-pointer just 10 seconds later to put the Mustangs ahead to stay. Two free throws by Millie Rivera increased the margin to five points but the Sea Lions recovered with a 4-0 spurt, closing the deficit to one point (12-11) at the 11:22 mark.
The teams traded hoops on their following possessions, setting the stage for a Mustang burst that created the first substantial separation of the evening. Jumpers by Lena Rivera and Lindsey Levanan sandwiched around a three-pointer and layup by Scott supplied the firepower in a 9-2 spurt that gave the Mustangs a 23-15 lead with 7:41 remaining in the half.
However, this could not totally shake the Sea Lions who hurried back with a 5-0 burst that closed the deficit to 28-24 at the 3:24 mark. The Mustangs, giving no indication of their soon coming hot hand, went scoreless for nearly four minutes until a Lena Rivera free throw with 1:57 showing on the clock snapped the drought. The charity toss keyed a half-closing 6-0 run that Iverson finished off with her first three-ball of the evening with three ticks left on the clock.
Iverson’s career-high total came on 7-10 shooting from the field, featuring a 6-9 performance from behind the arc. Scott was very effective, too, going 5-8 from the field, en route to 13 points while Rivera finished with 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
Not to be overlooked was the superb point play of Best who handed out a career-high 10 assists while posting a game-best three steals.
The Mustangs’ quest for a second straight win will face a stern challenge on Tuesday evening when they play at defending NAIA national champion and 13th-ranked Azusa Pacific.