Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
COSTA MESA — Dan Waldeck bounded around a hallway corner inside The Pit. He didn’t wait for a question.
“Defense again, man,” the Mustangs coach said, still riding the adrenaline of a stirring 64-49 comeback win at No. 9 Vanguard on Thursday.
The Mustangs held the Golden State Athletic Conference’s top offense to four points in the fourth quarter, outscoring their host by 18 in a dominant final period.
The win was TMU’s seventh straight and its third in its last four meetings with Vanguard (13-5, 5-3 GSAC).
More importantly, it kept No. 10 Master’s (15-4, 7-1) in a tie for first place in GSAC standings and continued a trend of smothering defensive efforts.
The Mustangs have held nine of their last 11 opponents to fewer than 50 points.
“I told the team we have to hang our hat on defense,” Waldeck said.
They did. Master’s held the Lions to 25 percent from the floor after halftime, using a 15-3 run to take a lead late in the third, its first since midway through the first period.
The teams traded leads from there, with Vanguard taking a three-point advantage to the fourth.
With 7:50 left in regulation, Sabrina Thompson slithered to the rim and kissed the ball off glass to give the Mustangs a two-point lead. The Mustangs were just getting started.
Stephanie Soares recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Thompson (13 points) and Anika Neuman (12 points) each scored in double figures for the Mustangs, who trailed by eight at half and as many as 11 in the third. It was the third time this season TMU had trailed at the break against an opponent ranked in the top 10. The Mustangs are 3-0 in such games.
That alone doesn’t describe the ruggedness of TMU’s schedule.
Master’s has played eight ranked teams, and are 6-2 in those games. Waldeck knew the schedule would be trying. Nine of his team’s first 13 games were on the road.
“All that comes back to matter in a game like this,” said Waldeck.
The Mustangs backed themselves into a corner by struggling to put the ball in the hoop.
Master’s boasts a bevy of weapons on the inside and the perimeter, but in Thursday’s first half, few players found any kind of rhythm.
In a sense, Vanguard dealt TMU a dose of its own medicine. Lately, it’s been the Mustangs’ zone defense doing the smothering. On this night, Vanguard followed suit.
The Mustangs took an early 11-3 lead after Anika Neuman connected on a three-pointer from the shoulder. But over the next 9 minutes, 37 seconds, Master’s scored all of two points.
In the meantime, Vanguard tossed in 16 unanswered and built two 10-point leads.
A Soares layup in the closing moments of the second quarter limited the deficit to eight at the break. But it didn’t spare TMU from an undesirable benchmark. The Mustangs’ 22 points represented their second fewest in a first half this season.
In the opening 20 minutes, Master’s turned the ball over 10 times and allowed eight offensive rebounds. Things would improve.
In the second half, Master’s shot 59 percent from the floor, 63% from three.
During that time, Soares scored 12 of her 16 points, Thompson chipped in nine of her 13, and Hannah Ostrom hit two key three-pointers.
Rebekah Throns provided energy when the Mustangs needed it. She had nine rebounds, five offensive, and seven points.
“We had a lot of contributors tonight,” Waldeck said.
Here’s the box score.