Westmont College of Santa Barbara stonewalled The Master’s University’s final possession of the fourth quarter.
TMU’s men forced an air ball on the Warriors’ last shot in the first overtime.
The second OT, though, wasn’t nearly as dramatic.
Westmont controlled the game’s final five minutes, smashing the hearts of a rowdy TMU crowd, 84-78, in a Golden State Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night at TMU.
Mostly full bleachers and the impassioned waving of hand towels at Bross Court was consistent with the buzz created by an undefeated Mustangs team.
A gritty overtime loss to the NAIA No. 9 Westmont Warriors lent credibility to the idea TMU (7-1 overall, 0-1 in GSAC) could reach the national tournament for the first time since 2000.
Men’s basketball: Final box score from The Master’s. pic.twitter.com/sqHhrMG4Zn
— Signal Sports (@SignalSports) December 8, 2016
Mustang Lawrence Russell scored 21 points, but his turnover ended TMU’s last attempt at ending the game in regulation.
Westmont’s Cory Blau scored 28 points, but tight defense from Delewis Johnson pressured him into an air ball near the buzzer in the first overtime, which ended 72-72.
The Warriors outscored TMU 12-6 in the final period.
The night still showed progress for a rebuilding Mustangs program.
TMU went 4-20 last season.
It’s taken little more than a month to show that this isn’t that team. But Wednesday night provided the biggest, and probably truest, test of the young season against a perennially solid and defensive-minded Westmont club.
The Mustangs entered the night averaging 95 points a game. The Warriors held TMU to 65 points through four quarters.
Despite regularly breaking the century mark through seven games, first-year TMU coach Kelvin Starr’s staple is defense. And TMU had to play it Wednesday.
The first half was almost dead even, and it wasn’t pretty or quiet.
The TMU student section rained down chants of “air ball” on 2015 second-team All-American Cory Blau after an errant shot early in the game.
After each subsequent make, Blau jawed at the crowd. Eventually he just stared, as his 12 first-half points on 5-of-10 shooting said enough.
Westmont shot 36 percent. TMU shot 35 percent, dreadfully below their 54-percent average entering the game. Still, the Mustangs managed a 34-30 lead after Matthew McClain closed the half with a powerful, breakaway dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Westmont tied the score 38-38 three minutes into the second half, but the Mustangs took a 46-44 lead at the 12-minute mark they wouldn’t relinquish until a Blau floater tied the game in the final 30 seconds.
The Warriors came in at No. 9 in the NAIA Division 1 poll released Tuesday. They were No. 12 in the preseason.
TMU did not receive votes in either poll. It is slated to play No. 25 Arizona Christian in Phoenix on Saturday.