Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
There’s a temptation inherent to a free-flowing and high scoring game.
“Guys usually try and get their own,” said Master’s head coach Kelvin Starr after a 120-85 win over visiting Bethesda University on Tuesday.
That’s why Starr was particularly impressed with the way the No. 1-ranked Mustangs moved the ball on a night they improved to 2-1 and earned their 22nd straight home win.
Master’s racked up 25 assists as it cruised to its highest-scoring game since December 8, 2017, when it scored 126 against Westcliff University.
Hansel Atencia led all scorers with 29 points. He made 8-of-10 shots after halftime and dished out four assists in all.
Brock Gardner scored 18 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, and Hodges Bailey made five 3-pointers on his way to 21 points. He was one of six Mustangs to score in double figures.
Freshman Jordan Starr barely missed his second triple double of the young season, racking up 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
The Mustangs led 62-33 at the half and by as many as 39 over the final 20 minutes. It was their first game in more than a week.
Master’s opened its season at the Texas Wesleyan Champions Classic in Fort Worth. And the tournament lived up to its name.
The Mustangs fell to No. 2 LSU Alexandria on Nov. 1 before bouncing back with an impressive win over No. 7 LSU Shreveport the following day.
Neither Gardner nor Atencia felt good about the way he played at the tournament. Atencia is a returning NAIA All-American coming off a successful summer with the Colombian senior national team. And Gardner flashed All-American potential last season, his first at TMU after transferring from NCAA Division 1 Liberty University in Virginia.
Both players hold themselves to a high standard, and the Texas two-step didn’t cut it.
Tuesday was a different story.
Atencia said he came out of halftime set on asserting himself offensively. It showed.
He knifed to the hoop with regularity, finishing layups from difficult angles. He hit a step-back three to push the Mustangs to 111 points with four minutes to go.
Gardner’s breakout night started earlier — much earlier. The junior shuffled into The MacArthur Center around noon Tuesday and didn’t leave until 2, catching and shooting, catching and shooting.
He made 5-of-6 shots in the first half, including his first 3-pointer of the season, for a team-high 13 points.
“I’ve been in a little funk,” said Gardner, who averaged better than 12 points and eight rebounds last year, “so I just mentally tried to go back to keeping it simple: shoot it when I’m open, try to penetrate a little bit more and get other guys open. That’s something I felt like I got away from a little. As far as my shot goes, I just need to smooth it out, get some repetition in. It felt a lot better today.”
Bailey said the hardest thing Tuesday was walking the line between being aggressive and getting others involved. The key, he said, was to not settle for a shot simply because it was open.
“It’s about trusting your teammates and trusting your practice,” Bailey said. “So if you get it in your spot, don’t hesitate. Shoot it. But you also have to trust that we’ll get other shots too.”
TMU’s Delewis Johnson finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Michael Taylor had 10 points and one rim-rattling dunk.
Tim Soares finished with nine points and five boards in 16 minutes of play.
As far as defense, the Mustangs naturally weren’t satisfied with allowing 85 points. The fact that it was the fewest they have allowed this season wasn’t comforting.
“I thought we got a little undisciplined late in the game,” said Kelvin Starr, “and we let the point guard (Jameel McGill) break us down too much. We’re going to go back and practice defensively all week, prepare for Saint Katherine and hopefully do a better job on the defensive end.”
The Mustangs will host the University of Saint Katherine on Saturday at TMU at 7 p.m.