By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
MONTECITO — It took a rogue fan with a giant “M” flag to stop, momentarily, the most dominant stretch of basketball The Master’s University men’s basketball team has played all year.
The Mustangs opened the second half of their 101-82 win at Westmont College on Saturday with a flurry of steals and blocks and buckets. Enough dunks to drown the most buoyant of cookies.
The 23-5 run, which helped TMU claim at least a share of the first Golden State Athletic Conference title in program history, was interrupted, however, when game officials asked a Master’s fan to wave his large flag only on the visitors’ side of the gym.
He obliged, and Master’s (26-1, 12-0 GSAC) went back to screening a montage of why it was voted No. 1 in the most recent NAIA Division 1 Coaches’ Top 25.
It was Tim Soares swatting a shot at one end, and Hansel Atencia lofting a pass toward a sprinting Brock Gardner for a dunk at the other.
It was Gardner draining a three. It was Lawrence Russell backing down his man and finishing with a left-handed hook.
There was no pulling the Mustangs back in the first five minutes after intermission as they turned a two-point game into a rout of the No. 8 team in the country.
“These guys are so fun to coach,” said TMU coach Kelvin Starr.
Gardner finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Russell and Soares followed with 19 points each.
“Brock is insane,” Soares said. “… He just plays out of his mind, and he blows all our minds.”
Gerald Karczewski scored a game-high 24 points for Westmont, 12 in the first half when Westmont made 9-of-16 three-point attempts. But the Mustangs clamped down on the perimeter as the night wore on, and Westmont made 3-of-12 threes from there. Starr credited pace.
“We play so uptempo that we just wear people down,” he said.
Before half, Gardner scored 14 points and threw down two jaw-dropping dunks. He added eight rebounds, a block and two steals.
Gardner stopped short of calling the second-half surge his team’s best basketball of the season. Instead, he dubbed it the “most clutch.”
“You have the No. 1 team and the No. 8 team,” Gardner said. “It was a huge win that we beat them.”
Here’s the box score.
The win moves Master’s two games ahead of Westmont in the GSAC standings with two games to play. A win against either Hope International on Thursday or Vanguard University on Saturday, both on the road, would deliver the title outright.
“We’ll celebrate tonight,” Soares said. “But after tonight, we look forward.”