Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
Evidently, there are few safe spaces within The MacArthur Center.
In the first month of the season, The Master’s University’s 6-foot-6 center Stephanie Soares marked the paint as a no-fly zone, but on Thursday she roamed toward the three-point arc and swatted a pair of jump shots.
The key to blocking shots so far from the hoop?
“You need to 100 percent commit. You can’t resist, or you won’t get there,” said Soares.
That’s the mentality the Mustangs played with in a dominant defensive effort Thursday, TMU holding Hope International scoreless in the third quarter of what became a 76-47 win.
The score was tied at 23 after 10 minutes, but then TMU held Hope without a point for a 13-and-a-half-minute stretch that spanned the second, third and fourth quarters.
A shutout is not something coach Dan Waldeck can remember seeing in any quarter in 10-plus seasons at the helm. But the effort fell in line with the improvement he’s seen from his team on that end of the floor of late.
“Coach always says everyone has defense in them. It’s just an effort thing,” said forward Anika Neuman. “I think we’re playing with a lot of effort and will right now, and we’re seeing what it takes to lock down on defense.”
Soares made 8-of-9 shots and finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Neuman added 13 points and Tristen Coltom scored 11 for the No. 14-ranked Mustangs, who had lost two of their last three games coming in.
TMU locked in after a back-and-forth first quarter when the Royals made 5-of-16 three-point shots and Hope’s Rhianne Omori and Sydney Lopez tossed in six points each. Soares scored eight points in the quarter to keep the Mustangs even with a team that beat them by 22 at TMU last season.
The Royals’ best player from that team did not return for 2018-19, but that didn’t keep Hope from rolling to an 8-2 start to the year.
The Mustangs won four of five to open the season, including a road win over then-No. 7 Carroll College. But in losing to the University of Antelope Valley and then-No. 22 Arizona Christian in the last two weeks, Waldeck felt the Mustangs had hampered themselves with unforced errors.
Master’s turned the ball over 19 times Thursday but otherwise played a mostly clean game.
The Mustangs created separation early in the second quarter, going on an 8-0 run and pulling into halftime ahead by 13.
“It was more of our mentality, our defensive focus and our effort,” said point guard Sabrina Thompson, who contributed seven points and four assists, including a slick alley-oop pass to Soares that pushed TMU’s lead to 18 early in the third. “That’s what made the difference. We never let them get the shots they wanted.”
TMU sophomore Rebekah Throns, who moved into the starting lineup during last week’s trip to Arizona, hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter. She finished with eight points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
“She shoots the three, she can drive it, she’s physical, she gets rebounds,” Neuman said of Throns. “She kind of just does it all.”
TMU shot 50 percent from the floor as a team and limited the Royals to 27 percent. Brooke Bailey scored seven points for the Mustangs.
Here’s the box score.
The Mustangs ride to San Diego on Saturday to take on San Diego Christian. Tip is at 5:30 p.m.