By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
Returning on Saturday after a 91-69 win over San Diego Christian, The Master’s University men’s basketball team found itself in a markedly better position than it was at this time last season.
That’s saying something. The Mustangs won 27 games last year. They dropped five. They advanced to the NAIA tournament for the first time since 2000.
But, after four Golden State Athletic Conference games, Master’s was just 1-3 and licking its wounds after a 32-point home loss to Hope International. Fast forward to 2018, and the Mustangs (18-1 overall) have reeled off 17 wins in a row, their best streak since at least 2003-2004, and, maybe more importantly, they’re a perfect 4-0 in conference.
Like a gymnast on the beam, Saturday was all about balance.
Five Mustangs scored in double figures, with Brock Gardner leading the way with 18 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Delewis Johnson followed with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Keegan Scott added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.
Lawrence Russell tallied 11 points, and Hodges Bailey had 10.
In some ways, the game was a repeat of Thursday’s win over No. 23 Arizona Christian in Phoenix. The Mustangs found themselves again in a close game at halftime – this time up just 39-34 – only to press down on the pedal after the break and roll.
“Same old, same old,” said coach Kelvin Starr. “Second half we played with more energy and came out ready to play defensively.”
The No. 5 Mustangs never lost control, though. They led for 35 of the game’s 40 minutes and built a 34-point advantage near the five-minute mark of the second half.
Derek Novsek, one of the GSAC’s premier scorers, led the Hawks (3-9, 0-3) with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Anthony Gonzalez followed with 14 points for a San Diego Christian team that’s proven to be dangerous in conference play.
The Hawks lost to No. 9 Hope International by four on Jan. 6.
“They’re all tough no matter who you play,” Starr said of sweeping a two-game conference trip this week. “We’re just happy to get a ‘W’ and get back home.”
The Mustangs will play Westmont College at home on Jan. 20.
Saturday, TMU’s Hansel Atencia dished out eight assist, and Travis Yenor added eight points.
Darryl McDowell-White and Tim Soares each had six points. The Mustangs shot 61 percent from the field after halftime and limited the Hawks to 38 percent.