It’s tough enough staying even with perennial power Concordia but when you fall behind by as many as 24 points, well, it may be asking too much to come all the way back.
That’s the situation The Master’s College found itself in Tuesday evening and in the end even a furious rally wasn’t enough for the Mustangs as they fell to the 16th-ranked Eagles 74-62 before a lively Bross Gym crowd.
Suffering their second home loss in a row, the No. 25 Mustangs (16-8, 8-5), who just two and a half weeks ago sat atop the GSAC, now find themselves in fifth place, two games behind first-place Westmont and a game behind three clubs, including Concordia.
Most of that 24-point advantage forged by the Eagles came in a dreadful first half for the Mustangs, who shot just 20% (7-35) from the field. Even so, they were only down 16-13 with 7:38 left in the period before the Eagles flew away on a 13-0 run that turned a close game into a seeming runaway.
Senior Anthony Cammon snapped the Mustangs out of their 4½-minute scoreless snooze with a three-point play but the Eagles closed the half on a 12-5 spurt to take a 41-21 lead at halftime. Adding to the club’s first-half shooting woes was a paltry 1-12 performance from behind the arc.
It didn’t get any better in the opening minutes of the second half when the Eagles capitalized on the Mustangs’ 1-6 start, going up 47-23 on a pair of Dakota Downs’ charity tosses.
But, just when everyone in Bross Gym thought the Mustangs were done, they began that slow, inexorable march back into the game. It started with an 8-0 spurt in a 1:43 window that sliced the deficit to 49-37. Mike Harmon fueled the run with a jumper while Devin Dyer, making his first appearance after missing two games with an abdominal strain, sandwiched four points around a Paul Brown dunk.
Rocked backed on their heels, the Eagles bounced back and seemed to regain their composure and control of the game, extending the margin to as many as 15 points (55-40) with just over 11 minutes left to play. They were still up 57-44 two minutes later when the Mustangs made their second surge.
This one started with an Anthony Cammon layup and when freshman Jon Hogan duplicated that with 5:02 remaining in the game, the Mustangs had caught the Eagles at 57. Cammon poured in eight points in the 13-0 run and Leif Karlberg, who suffered through a horrific 2-12 performance from behind the arc, finally found the range.
With Bross Gym rocking, the Mustangs were poised to keep on going and complete an incredible comeback. But, the Eagles aren’t perennial national contenders for nothing and they showed it in the game’s final five minutes. In that span they produced a pair of 5-0 spurts and a game-ending 7-0 burst that put the upset-minded Mustangs away.
A Karlberg three-ball ended the first skein, drawing the Mustangs to within 62-60 but a Cameron Gliddon trifecta capped the second 5-0 spurt, creating a seven-point advantage with 1:40 left on the clock. The Mustangs never got closer than five points the rest of the way while the Eagles tallied the game’s final seven points from the line.
The Mustangs improved their accuracy (37.5%) from the field in the second half but it was only enough to boost them to 29% for the game. Cammon led three Mustangs in double figures, tallying 15 points while Dyer and Karlberg finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Unable to take care business at home, the Mustangs hit the road on Saturday, traveling to Costa Mesa to take on a Vanguard team they lost to 80-76 in overtime on January 14.