Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
SANTA BARBARA — The Mustangs knew the challenge that awaited them this week.
Three games. Three days. Two teams that played in NAIA national semifinals in recent years.
Win or lose, coach Dan Waldeck planned to learn at least one thing about his team.
“How tough we are,” he said.
Monday, the Mustangs showed plenty of grit, overcoming an 18-point deficit to take down No. 3 Wayland Baptist at TMU.
Tuesday, Master’s fell behind by as many as 20 in the second half. And this time a rally never materialized, the Mustangs falling 70-55 to Lewis-Clark State inside Murchison Gymnasium as part of the Westmont Holiday Classic.
The No. 22-ranked Mustangs (8-4) will play Cornerstone University (Mich.) at Westmont on Wednesday at 3 p.m. before commencing a 10-day break. They’ll hope to shoot better than 36 percent — the product of LC State’s full-court press, which made a chore of simply moving the ball across half court, and an active 2-3 zone that left TMU puzzled.
“I think we were stagnant with the ball,” said guard Brooke Bailey. “We were a second late on our passes so it was really hard for us to get a flow going. The ball was stuck.”
LC State (8-3) — which received votes in the most recent NAIA top 25 — led by nine at half and extended the advantage to 20 midway through a fourth quarter that once held promise.
Bailey opened the fourth with back-to-back three-pointers, helping the Mustangs climb within 12 at the 9:24 mark. Moments later, Stephanie Soares forced her way into the paint, laying the ball in off glass to drop the deficit to 10.
But turnovers continued to hamper the comeback, and the Mustangs never got closer.
TMU gave the ball away 17 times.
“We just made really poor decisions,” said Waldeck. “You can’t do that against a good team. They capitalize on it every time.”
Soares led the Mustangs in scoring with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting. She added 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double. Bailey contributed 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
Hailey Turner scored 12 points to key a balanced attack for LC State, which finished as the NAIA Division 1 runner-up in 2017. TMU’s opponent Monday, Wayland Baptist, advanced to last year’s NAIA Fab Four, a fact that helped make this week one of marquee matchups for the Mustangs. Was TMU ready?
“I think we’re as ready as we can be,” Waldeck said Monday before his team held Wayland Baptist, a team averaging better than 91 points a game entering the day, to 49.
Tuesday, it was the Mustangs who struggled to put the ball in the basket, scoring their fewest points of the season.
In the first half, Master’s made 2-of-14 three-point attempts and shot 37 percent overall. They allowed eight offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 10 times.
The Warriors outscored Master’s 21-8 in the second quarter and 20-12 in the third, erasing what had been a four-point Mustang lead after the first.
In that opening period, Tristen Coltom provided a spark off the bench for the second time in as many days. In five minutes, the sophomore guard connected on 3-of-4 shots for seven points.
Anika Neuman tossed in five of her 11 points in what proved to be one of two quarters when TMU outscored the Warriors.
The Mustangs scored 19 points to LC State’s 17 in the fourth.
Here’s the box score.
“I liked our resilience,” Bailey said. “Our entire team kept saying, ‘Don’t give up, we’re still in this.'”
The teams entered the game in very different places. Master’s was preparing for its second back-to-back of the season, while LC State hadn’t played in 17 days.
As for how the Mustangs would handle the lack of rest, their previous back-to-back said they were capable of a strong performance.
During its season-opening swing through Montana, TMU lost to No. 18-ranked University of Providence on Nov. 8 and bounced back to beat No. 7 Carrol College 61-56 a day later.
In this case, the Mustangs were coming off one of their most impressive regular season performances in recent memory.
The Mustangs gathered later in the day to watch film on LC State and took the court for warmups in Santa Barbara less than 24 hours later.
Now, they will repeat the process and hope for a different result.
“We just have to be ready mentally, be prepared for the game,” Soares said. “I know we’ll be tired. We just have to play with our full effort and finish up strong.”