Game Recap by Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
SANTA BARBARA — A man wearing a mustache and a leaf-patterned shirt walked to the scorer’s table after Saturday’s game at Westmont College. He wanted to talk to the PA announcer.
“We have to play her for another three years,” the Warrior fan said, regaling Stephanie Soares’ pair of blocks on one possession and dubbing the TMU freshman’s near triple-double “unbelievable.”
The game did not end in the Mustangs’ favor. Master’s turned the ball over on its final possession, when it trailed by two, and fell 49-46 inside Murchison Gym — failing, for now, to claim at least a share of the first Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title in program history.
TMU (23-5, 14-2 in GSAC) saw its 15-game winning streak snapped, too.
But the No. 5-ranked Mustangs showed resolve, overcoming 13- and 11-point deficits, and Soares left an impression on the home crowd.
The 6-foot-6 center tallied 12 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks. She blocked five shots in the second quarter when Master’s used an 11-2 run to climb within five at half.
No. 15 Westmont (20-7, 12-4) answered with Lauren Tsuneishi, 17 inches shorter than Sores, but a problem nonetheless.
The sophomore guard made 5-of-6 three-pointers in the first quarter, scoring 17 of her game-high 26 points. On the last play of the first period, she grabbed an offensive rebound, dribbled behind the three-point line and banked in a shot at the buzzer.
“Wow, she’s crazy,” Soares said. “She was incredible.”
Anika Neuman added nine points for the Mustangs, who locked-in on Tsuneishi as the night went along.
Master’s also had one more big run in it.
The Mustangs closed the third on a 16-5 spurt, sending the teams into the fourth quarter tied, 39-39.
That’s when TMU went cold, again.
The Mustangs didn’t score for the first 4:23 of the fourth, falling behind and never tying or taking the lead again.
Soares hit a hook shot with 1:20 left to pull TMU within 47-46. But the Mustangs missed a three-pointer to take the lead with 30 seconds left, and Westmont grabbed two offensive rebounds on missed free throws in the closing seconds to seal it.
Westmont had 19 offensive rebounds in all.
“It came down to toughness,” said TMU point guard Sabrina Thompson, who had five points and eight assists, “and we weren’t able to pull it out. We know we have it in us, but we didn’t bring it.”
From the second quarter on, Master’s looked more like a team that entered the night ranked top five nationally in scoring defense.
Westmont scored two points over the first seven minutes and 48 seconds of the second quarter and made only six field goals inside the arc all evening.
That TMU also struggled to put the ball in the basket here was no surprise. On its last trip to Santa Barbara, the Mustangs scored 41 points, their fewest of the 2017-18 season.
Soares said she felt nights like this would prepare the Mustangs for the GSAC tournament and beyond. Waldeck agreed, citing issues with rebounding and three-point shooting.
“Better to learn that now,” he said.
Master’s will have another opportunity to claim a share of the GSAC title on Thursday at last-place Life Pacific. The Mustangs hold a one-game lead over Arizona Christian with two to play.