On an evening when The Master’s College shot just under 41 percent, it was the Mustangs’ defense that took center stage in a 60-47 win over San Diego Christian Saturday night in Bross Gym.
Limiting the Hawks to 33 percent accuracy and forcing 16 turnovers that led to 23 points, the 10th-ranked Mustangs produced a nice bounce-back following Tuesday’s loss at Azusa Pacific.
The victory moved the Mustangs to 15-6 overall and 7-3 in the GSAC where they joined four other clubs in a logjam at the top of the conference.
Evidence of both clubs’ inability to get anything going offensively was apparent early when neither team could dent the scoreboard through the first three minutes of action. TMC’s Paul Brown finally snapped the scoreless skein with a layup at the 16:56 mark and when Leif Karlberg buried a three-pointer over a minute later, the Mustangs had a lead (5-0) they would never relinquish.
It took the Hawks over six minutes to finally post their initial tally of the evening and that came on a Benji Arvizu bucket with 13:48 left in the first half. Anthony Cammon answered with a pair of three-pointers and a Brown layup with 10:47 remaining capped a 5-0 spurt for a 13-4 lead.
San Diego Christian pulled to within 13-7 on a Keenan Patterson but then didn’t score again for nearly six minutes as the Mustang defense really put the clamps on. They weren’t much better than the Hawks on the offensive end but a Brown dunk did key a 7-0 run that Mike Harmon, starting for an ailing Devin Dyer, capped off with five straight points for a 20-7 advantage at the 7:27 mark.
That proved to be beneficial because the Mustangs didn’t score again for nearly three four minutes and when they did, Chris Patureau’s layup made it a 22-10 game with 3:55 showing on the clock. That bucket triggered a half-closing 11-4 skein, highlighted by a Harmon three-pointer at the buzzer, sending the Mustangs to the locker room ahead 31-14.
The Mustangs shot nearly 45 percent in the first half while the Hawks managed just 27 percent shooting. Harmon, Cammon, and Brown all had eight points to lead the squad.
Twenty-two seconds into the second half, Harmon picked up where he left off, draining another three-pointer to give the Mustangs their first 20-point lead of the evening. It hovered around and even exceeded that barrier until the final three minutes of play.
In between, the Mustangs used a 14-6 run over a seven-minute window to expand the margin to a game-high 25 points (50-25). A pair of Karlberg trifectas and a Cammon trey highlighted the burst while an Anthony Wells’ twisting layup helped the Mustangs double up the Hawks with 8:36 remaining.
A pair of Harmon charity tosses just over two minutes later gave the Mustangs their final 25-point advantage of the evening. Down the stretch, a desperate Hawk squad ripped off 15 straight points to pull within 54-44 at the one-minute mark but a six-for-six performance from the free throw line in the final minute clinched the win for the Mustangs.
Harmon led all scorers with 16 points while Karlberg and Cammon chipped in with 13 apiece. Brown, who grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, and Patureau finished with eight points apiece.
Hoping to do their part to stay in first place, the Mustangs travel to the Central Valley on Tuesday evening to take on Fresno Pacific, a club they beat handily, 73-53, on January 3.