This is one Kelvin Starr will be able to forget about very quickly.
The first-year TMU head coach watched incredulously Saturday evening as Hope International ran his Mustangs off Bross Court, using an early run to set the tone in an 88-56 win.
The Mustangs’ point total was the lowest of the season and the loss was the club’s second in as many outings. The defeat also marked the club’s first two-game losing streak of the 2016-17 campaign and dropped it to 11-3 overall and 1-3 in the GSAC.
Much of that can be attributed to a tough Royal defense and Liam Hunt, their hard-nosed, yet outside scoring threat. The Mustangs had no answer for the 6-6 center, who seemingly scored at will, posting game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds.
And, it was Hunt who got the Royals going as his three-pointer with 16:24 left in the first half keyed a 13-2 burst that turned a one-point deficit into a 10-point (17-7) lead for the visitors. With 11:03 left in the first half, HIU’s Charles Trotter hit a three-pointer and the Royals were up 20-9.
One the verge of being blown out, the Mustangs responded with an 8-2 spurt that got them back in the game. Reid Shackelford and Travis Yenor sandwiched three-pointers around a Delewis Johnson layup to bring the Mustangs within 22-17 at the 7:30 mark of the opening stanza.
Johnson’s layup with 4:43 remaining brought the Mustangs closer at 29-25 but Hunt closed the half with five straight points to send the Royals to the break up 38-30.
The Royals shot a solid 55% (16-29) in the first half and Hunt had 16 points. Meanwhile, the Mustangs managed just 40% (12-30) accuracy.
Those numbers would go in opposite directions for both teams, respectively, in the second half as the Royals heated up and the Mustangs cooled off considerably.
It started early in the second half when the Royals hit four consecutive shots in a 1:17 window to vault ahead 48-34. A Hunt jumper capped a 10-2 blitz.
Again, though, the Mustangs answered, scoring seven straight points to halve the deficit. Johnson buried a three-pointer, Evan Jenkins nailed a jumper, and Lawrence Russell knifed his way for a layup that sliced the deficit to 48-41 with 14:31 remaining.
Just when it appeared the Mustangs were going to make a game of it, the Royals struck back in a decisive way, ripping off eight straight points to forge a 56-41 advantage at the 11:52 mark. Six-eight center Daniel Young fueled the run with consecutive layups and Hunt capped it with two free throws.
The Mustangs never got the deficit under double digits the rest of the way as the Royals padded their advantage over the final 10 minutes. The margin reached 20 points (68-48) with 7:34 remaining and the Royals enjoyed their largest lead with the final score.
Shooting just 25% (8-32) in the second half, the Mustangs finished at 32% (20-62) for the game, their lowest mark of the year.
Johnson and Yenor shared team-high scoring honors with 11 points apiece while Russell pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Acknowledging the Royals’ dominance after the game, Starr remarked, “We got manhandled by a very good Hope International team tonight. If we can play as hard as they do the rest of the year, we will be okay.”
The Mustangs will get a chance to take a step in that direction Monday evening when they take a break from conference play to welcome NCAA Division II Humboldt State to Bross Court. The ball will go up at 7:00pm.