Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
With the heart of its conference schedule only days away, it was fitting that Master’s welcome a GSAC-caliber opponent to The MacArthur Center on Monday.
The University of Calgary lived up to the billing, leading the Mustangs by as many as seven after halftime and pushing its host throughout an entertaining contest on New Year’s Eve.
No. 2 Master’s pulled off a 75-68 victory behind improved defense and three-point shooting over the final 20 minutes, winning at home for the 27th straight time and improving to 12-2.
The Mustangs will host Golden State Athletic Conference rival William Jessup — which received votes in the most-recent NAIA top 25 — on Thursday before No. 21 Menlo College comes to town Saturday.
Master’s coach Kelvin Starr was pleased with the way Monday’s game prepared his team for the rest of the week — and with the resolve the Mustangs showed.
“We got down both halves, but we weathered the storm,” he said. “We made some big shots and pulled off a good win.”
No shots were bigger than Jordan Starr‘s off-balance three-pointer late in the second half and Tim Soares‘ emphatic dunk on TMU’s next possession.
The plays capped a 15-2 run that began with Master’s down by two with 8 minutes, 19 seconds on the clock and ended with the Mustangs ahead by 11 with 3:26 to play.
The lead never dipped below three from there, as Hansel Atencia iced the game at the free throw line on his way to a team-high 26 points. He was 8-of-11 from the line, and his performance helped counter Brett Layton’s 32 points for Calgary, which entered with a 14-1 record.
The Dinos split a pair of exhibitions with GSAC teams Hope International and Vanguard University in recent days, beating Hope by eight and falling to Vanguard by five.
The 6-foot-8 Layton had a methodical 16 points at half Monday, when the Dinos held a one-point lead and sent the Mustangs to the locker room with two puzzles to solve: How would TMU ignite a stagnant offense? And how would it keep Layton from eating it up?
The Mustangs didn’t figure it all out at once, but by the time Atencia hurtled up court and fed Soares for the back-breaking dunk, Master’s had a pretty good idea.
After halftime, TMU moved the ball with greater urgency, earning open three-point looks and avoiding one-on-one play. And the Mustangs began double-teaming Layton and defending him with greater force before he caught the ball.
Layton remained impactful, but the Mustangs connected on 6-of-12 shots from distance and made enough stops to earn their fourth straight win.
“They’re a great team,” said Atencia. “They’re like a D1 team. But we found a way to win it and stick together.”
Delewis Johnson contributed 18 points and eight rebounds, while Soares tallied 14 points and eight boards.
David Kapinga scored 12 points with five assists for the Dinos, who shot 37% after the break, down 10 percentage points from the first half.
What made the difference?
“Our defensive intensity,” Soares said. “We fixed a couple things from the first half, our weak-side (defense) was a lot better, and Hansel did a good job of getting a couple steals. Everyone was working harder.”
Master’s will now try and carry that momentum over into its GSAC matchups with William Jessup (11-3, 2-0 GSAC) and Menlo (4-7, 0-2).
The Mustangs are 2-1 in conference to this point.