There had already been 10 lead changes leading into the final five minutes of the first half between The Master’s University men’s basketball team and Vanguard.
Apparently, the Mustangs had enough of the back-and-forth play on their way to a historic victory.
They finished the first half on a 14-5 run, putting a permanent stop to the lead changes in an 86-79 win over Vanguard on Thursday night at Bross Court.
The Mustangs — ranked No. 4 in the latest NAIA men’s basketball coaches poll — have won 19 straight games, a new program record. The 1994-95 team, which advanced to the NAIA’s final eight, previously held the record.
“It was big to play out in front in the second half because we could control the tempo,” said Tim Soares, who led the Mustangs with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. “ … We’re the top dog so people are going to give us their best shot.
“I love it. I love all the competition.”
TMU (20-1, 6-0 Golden State Athletic Conference) held onto a 77-75 lead with 1:26 to play in the game. With a chance for Vanguard to take its first lead since TMU’s first-half run, Lawrence Russell picked off an errant bounce pass and found Hansel Atencia in transition for a layup.
Vanguard (13-8, 3-3) followed with a 3-pointer from Shacquille Dawkins, who led the Lions with 28 points. But Atencia, Russell and Brock Gardner combined to go 7 of 8 from the free-throw line to close out the win.
Russell had 18 points, seven rebounds and a team-high seven assists. TMU, which entered the contest having beaten opponents by an average of 20-plus points through 20 games, has won its last two games by a combined 11 points.
“A lot of these conference games we know can come down to one possession,” Russell said. “Games like this, where we have to grind it out, it’s only going to make us better.”
TMU didn’t grab its first lead of the night until a little over 10 minutes into the first half. Russell hit one of his four 3-pointers of the night in 10 attempts to take a 25-24 advantage. Delewis Johnson rounded out the Mustangs who scored in double figures, finishing with 12 points.
“We were just getting stops and getting out on the run,” said Russell on the team taking control late in the first half. “We were able to run our offense and play fast. We just kept running and running.”
The Mustangs continue GSAC play on Saturday at Bross Court against Hope International, which is ranked seventh in the coaches poll.
NOTES — Prior to tipoff for the men’s game, the TMU women’s basketball team pulled off a 75-62 win over Vanguard — ranked No. 2 in the NAIA women’s basketball coaches poll. Sophomore Hannah Forrar scored a career-high 34 points as the Mustangs moved to 13-5 and 3-3 in GSAC play. Tristen Coltom had 12 points and a team-high four assists.