Scoring, defending, rebounding.
The Master’s University women’s basketball team checked two of three off that list Saturday afternoon against Arizona Christian.
Typically, that would be enough to post a win.
It wasn’t against the 23rd-ranked Firestorm, who turned a decided edge on the boards into valuable second-chance points and a 75-70 win over the Mustangs.
“We defended well enough to win,” said TMU coach Dan Waldeck. “But, unfortunately, we didn’t rebound well enough to finish off our defense.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for TMU (6-5 GSAC, 16-7 overall) and dropped the club into a fourth-place tie with Menlo. Three games remain in the regular-season ahead of the GSAC Tournament in early March.
The Mustang defense shined throughout the game, particularly in containing All-American Courtney Christmas. The Firestorm standout had burned the Mustangs for 32 points on January 11. Saturday, she scored 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Still, it wasn’t good enough as the Firestorm, paced by Christmas’ nine boards, outrebounded the Mustangs 44-31. Many of those rebounds gave ACU second chances at the offensive end where they capitalized with 15 points.
The Firestorm used six Christmas points and a late Toni Davis 3-pointer to lead 22-14 after one.
Christmas enjoyed her best stretch of play early in the second stanza when her three-point play sparked an 8-2 run that she finished off with a 3-pointer for a 30-19 lead at the 7:41 mark.
Later in the period, she drained a couple of free throws to give the Firestorm its largest lead of the game, 34-22, with 5:11 left in the half.
The Mustangs couldn’t get closer than seven points, and Arizona Christian took a 42-31 advantage into halftime.
ACU held a 21-16 rebounding edge over the first 20 minutes and had nine second-chance points.
Christmas had 15 points at the break while Mustang Anika Neuman had 10.
Neuman was one of several Mustangs who rallied the club back into the game in the third period, scoring four points that were part of a 19-8 blitz over the first seven minutes.
Sophomore Hannah Ostrom capped the run with a 3-pointer that tied the game at 50 with 3:07 left in the quarter.
ACU unlocked the tie on their next possession and held off the Mustangs long enough to take a 58-57 lead into the final quarter.
Five straight points from ACU’s Makayla Enders and a Davis layup created some separation (65-59) for the visitors before the Mustangs rallied again.
Down by those six points, TMU got another 3-pointer from Ostrom to ignite a 9-3 burst that freshman Tristen Coltom finished with two free throws to even the game one more time at 68 with 3:34 left to play.
However, Christmas answered with a jumper and a free throw, and Davis drained another charity toss to give the Firestorm some breathing room at 72-68.
An Ostrom jumper at the 1:46 mark sliced the deficit in half, but TMU had nothing left after that while the Firestorm put the game away at the line.
Neuman led the Mustangs with 17 points, going 8-of-12 from the field. Ostrom, who went 6-of-7, provided a spark off the bench with 14 points while Brooke Bailey finished with 10.
“It was a tough loss,” Waldeck said. “I do see progress, though, and I’m confident in the resolve and determination of my team. We’ll be glad to get back on the court Monday to flush the mistakes and prepare for the home stretch.”
The Mustangs host non-conference foe Bethesda Monday evening in their final home game of the season before embarking on a grueling, regular-season-finishing three-game road trip.
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