A.J. Gasporra poured in a game-high 22 points and No. 15 Cal State San Marcos pulled away in the final minutes to beat The Master’s College 74-64 Saturday evening in Bross Gym.
The loss snapped the Mustangs’ six-game winning streak and saddled the team, which never enjoyed a lead, with its first home loss of the season (9-1) while falling to 11-4.
Gasporra did equal parts damage from the field and the line. He hit five of his 10 shots from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, and went 10-11 from the stripe, highlighted by a 7-7 showing in the second half. Two of his buckets were part of a 7-0 burst that the Cougars used to snap a 41-all tie and forge a 48-41 lead with 15:14 left in the game.
Three of his free throws came after he was fouled on a three-point attempt with 14:19 remaining, extending the San Marcos advantage to eight points (51-43). But, the Mustangs answered with an 8-2 run that drew them to within 53-51 at the 11:46 mark. Senior guard Leif Karlberg (Anchorage, AK) keyed the surge with a three-pointer and Austin Loeb’s (Cypress, CA) jumper capped the spurt.
A little over a minute later, the Mustangs pulled closer when Devin Dyer’s (Temecula, CA) two charity tosses made it a 54-53 game. However, that was as close as the Mustangs would get as the Cougars held them off down the stretch. A Bryan Emanuel trifecta extended the Cougar lead to 59-54 and Gasporra’s two free throws at the 6:52 mark restored the five-point margin (61-56).
A Paul Brown dunk with 6:47 left to play sliced the deficit to 61-58 but the Cougars responded with a 6-2 spurt that gave them a 67-60 lead with 1:45 remaining. The Mustangs reduced the deficit to five points (67-62) on a Chris Patureau (Houston, TX) lay-in with 1:15 left on the clock but Gasporra answered with a jumper and then added a pair of free throws with 28 ticks left on the clock as the Cougars tallied their final five points from the line to salt away the win.
On an evening when the Mustangs never knew what a lead was, they almost got blown out in the game’s first nine minutes as the Cougars demonstrated why they are one of the nation’s top teams. After Patureau knotted the game at three apiece with a layup at the 18:43 mark of the opening half, the Cougars raced away with an 8-0 burst, six of those coming on a pair of three-pointers from Jose Rivera.
The Mustangs retaliated with jumpers from Dyer and Derrick Fain (Dallas, TX) to pull within 12-7 but the Cougars turned right around and reeled off a 10-2 skein in a four-minute window to open up a 22-9 advantage. A Gasporra three-pointer highlighted the run.
But, the Mustangs weren’t about to get blown out in their own gym. Fueled by a Fain layup, the Mustangs outscored the Cougars 10-2 in a little over two minutes to get within 24-19. Back-to-back three-pointers from Logan Quinn (Little Rock, AR) and Karlberg provided the major part of the run while a Loeb layup with 9:11 left in the half capped it off.
The Mustangs couldn’t draw any closer until a 5-0 spurt, featuring a trio of Quinn free throws and two Dyer charity tosses, made it a 32-28 game at the 4:20 mark. A Rivera trey, his fourth in the first half, stopped the run momentarily because the Mustangs kept on coming after that.
A Brown dunk with 3:09 left sparked a 7-0 run that eventually pulled the Mustangs even at 35-all before a Hakeem Washington free throw gave the Cougars a 36-35 lead at the break. Karlberg followed Brown’s slam with a three-pointer and then tied the game on a layup.
Karlberg finished the evening with a team-high 14 points, going 3-5 from behind the arc. Patureau tossed in 12 points and hauled down a team-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and Loeb was the only other Mustang in double figures with 11 more. Quinn dished out a game-high four assists.
Despite the loss, the game was a good tune-up for GSAC play which opens Tuesday evening (January 8) against Hope International. The two squads will jump it up at 7:30 in Bross Gym.