Game Recap by Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
SANTA BARBARA — This performance didn’t carry with it the same level of reward as the last time Master’s played here.
In 2018, the Mustangs played one of their best games of the year in Murchison Gym to capture at least a share of the program’s first GSAC title.
This time Masters stopped one of the conference’s hottest teams, a squad that hadn’t lost a home game, and better positioned itself to contend for a repeat crown.
The No. 10-ranked Mustangs beat Westmont, 97-81, on Saturday, moving into a tie with Vanguard for first place in conference standings.
Three games remain, and the Mustangs (22-5, 11-4 GSAC) will host Vanguard at TMU on Feb. 23 after playing Life Pacific on the road Thursday.
Master’s hopes to play this well.
The Mustangs made 11 three-pointers, dished out 19 assists and scored 29 points off of 18 Westmont turnovers.
TMU’s Darryl McDowell-White scored a career-high 24 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. He went 5-of-5 from deep in TMU’s first meeting with Westmont this season, scoring what was then a career-best 23 points.
Still, it was other aspects of McDowell-White’s game that stood out to point guard Hansel Atencia on Saturday.
“His energy is unbelievable,” said Atencia, who tossed in 19 points with five assists. “He’s the one who keeps us going on offense and defense. Those blocks he got were unbelievable. Those steals. The fact that he never gets tired. He can play 40 minutes and pressure the ball full court.”
Atencia left his imprint on the game in the closing moments of the first half. The senior knocked down a three on a kick-out to extend TMU’s lead to four with 1:19 remaining. Next time down, he stepped into an open three as he brought the ball up. Next time …
“Heat check,” said Atencia, whose personal nine-point run was part of the Mustangs closing the first half on an 11-0 spurt.
The Mustangs led 47-37 at the break and by as many as 21 in the second half.
Atencia’s hot shooting was key to turning the tide.
“He’s been in a little bit of a slump,” said McDowell-White. “So for him to come out confidently and hit those threes to build momentum going into the second half, that’s exactly what we needed.”
Olisa Nwachie scored 20 points to lead Westmont (15-8, 9-6), which had won six of its last seven games entering the night, including a win over Vanguard (which lost to William Jessup on Saturday).
The Warriors made a handful of pushes in Saturday’s second half but never seriously threatened.
The Mustangs had five players score in double figures, with Delewis Johnson scoring 18 and Tim Soares contributing 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Jordan Starr added 10 points and four assists for the Mustangs.