TMU Insider: No. 5 Mustangs playing physical brand of basketball

Delewis Johnson (5) of The Master's University breaks through defenders from Bethesda University on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal

When you’re 6-foot-10 with long arms and lots of potential, “load” is a complementary description, and “blocking” and “cleaning” are verbs to be venerated.

As in …

“Tim Soares was a load on the defensive end, blocking shots and cleaning up the boards,” The Master’s University men’s basketball coach Kelvin Starr said Saturday after a 92-74 win over Pacific Union in Angwin.

TMU’s Tim Soares (10) was named the Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Week on Monday after blocking 18 shots in two games last week. He’s averaging 15 points a game on the year. Courtesy of TMU Athletics.

On the night, Soares accomplished a statistical oddity. Instead of assists, he went the block route to a triple double, swatting 11 shots to go with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

The day before, he sent seven shots packing for a Master’s team that, frankly, has packed a punch all year.

The NAIA No. 5-ranked Mustangs (8-1) are third nationally in defensive rebounds per game (34.5) and total rebound margin (14.8). They’re 11th in total blocks (39).

The bully mentality has paid off on the scoreboard, where TMU has outscored its opponents by nearly 30 points a game and allowed just 65 points a night, sixth fewest in the country.

At the center of it all has been, well, the center.

“It’s nice knowing if something happens on defense, you have a 6-10 big man ready to block someone’s shot behind you,” said forward Brock Gardner.

Soares is sixth in the country in blocks per game, 32nd in total rebounds and has upped his scoring average from last year’s 8.3 points to this year’s 15.

Monday, the Golden State Athletic Conference named him its Player of the Week.

“He’s become more aggressive, more engaged the whole game,” said coach Kelvin Starr. “We’re trying to get him more touches, trying to get him the ball more. He’s too good of a player not to.”

Of course, others have contributed to the deluge of boards, buckets and blocks.

Guard Lawrence Russell has pulled down an average of 7.4 rebounds a game. Gardner and Delewis Johnson each hover around six boards a night, and Russell and Gardner have each blocked five shots.

On the other end of the court, Russell scored 23 points Friday and 18 on Saturday. Gardner went for a career-high 27 points Saturday on 10-of-11 shooting.

“We’re happy to get a second win on the road in as many days,” Starr said of a grueling two-day bus trip that covered 245 miles north to Merced and another 168 miles up the state to Angwin, west of Sacramento.

The Mustangs play Westcliff University (from Irvine) at TMU on Friday at 7 p.m.

Freshman finding her footing

Women’s basketball forward Anika Neuman has become a steady, sometimes unstoppable, force in the Mustangs’ frontcourt.

The Minneapolis product scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting in a loss to Southern Oregon on Nov. 25. She followed that up with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting on Nov. 30 in a win over the University of La Verne.

On the season, Neuman is averaging 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. She has blocked 14 shots. The Mustangs are 7-2.

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