By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
For Mustang hoops, it’s been in with the new, and outrageous with the old.
As The Master’s University senior Lawrence Russell scored a career-high 32 points in a win over William Jessup men’s basketball Saturday, freshman Hodges Bailey knocked down four triples – three of them at key moments near the end.
Earlier that afternoon, freshman Anika Neuman dropped 14 points and eight rebounds in women’s basketball’s 71-57 win over Jessup.
It marked the Minneapolis product’s ninth double-digit scoring effort through the team’s 10-3 start.
“She’s very composed,” said Coach Dan Waldeck. “She’s very smart, and she doesn’t let too many things get her down.”
The same could be said of Bailey, who, yes, has a common last name for a first and a common first name for a last.
“Hodges,” the freshman says, comes from former University of Texas running back Hodges Mitchell (the Baileys are from Texas).
But back to basketball, where Bailey has carved a niche for himself as a scrappy sharpshooter off the bench for the No. 5 ranked team in the NAIA.
The Mustangs (17-1) have won 16 games in a row and sit at 3-0 in Golden State Athletic Conference play.
Saturday, Bailey helped get them there. His 14 points didn’t represent his highest-scoring effort (he scored 16 against Westcliff University on Dec. 8) — but it was his most crucial.
The Mustangs trailed by 11 at the 12-minute mark in the second half. Russell hit two threes to lead the charge. But Bailey got them over the hump.
The freshman nailed a 3-pointer to knot the score at 76-all. Moments later, he hit another triple for an 82-78 advantage.
With Master’s leading by two with a little over a minute left, he hit his final three of the night to seal a win that ended with a 97-89 score.
“All crucial shots,” said Coach Kelvin Starr, “and only one was wide open.”
Why was Bailey poised under pressure? A few things.
One, he’s felt the heat before. Bailey won Idaho state championships in basketball and baseball as a freshman at Capital High School in Boise.
After moving to Washington, he won another baseball state title at Centralia High School and auditioned multiple times for the USA Baseball national team.
“I’ve played in some big games so it’s not like it’s something new or the pressure is something that’s a whole new thing,” Bailey said. “… You learn to play with the emotions and the excitement and the pressure.”
Neuman, a 6-foot-1 forward, also knew pressure in prep sports. At Concordia Academy in Roseville — a suburb of the Twin Cities — her teams advanced to state three times in volleyball (a sport that improved her jumping and agility, she says), and she played four years of varsity basketball.
In short: the tall girl learned to be leaned on at an early age. And that helped prep her for college.
“I told her this summer, ‘We’re going to be young, so you need to come in ready,'” Waldeck said. “And she did it.”
Through 14 games, Neuman is averaging 12.7 points — second best on the team — and a team-high 6.1 rebounds.
“Coach made it clear that I was going to be a factor,” Neuman said. “I maybe didn’t realize how much of one.”