TMU Insider: Men’s hoops aware but not focusing on potential No. 1 ranking

: TMU's Lawrence Russell scored a game-high 18 points in the Mustangs' 78-66 win over Arizona Christian on Saturday. Master's could be ranked No. 1 in today's NAIA Division 1 Coaches' Top 25.

It sounds like a birthday.

The Master’s University men’s basketball team has for some time been anticipating a No. 1 national ranking.

But, frankly, the Mustangs don’t expect to feel any different should they rise to the  top of the NAIA Division 1 Coaches’ Top 25, set to be released Tuesday afternoon.

“Being No. 1 wouldn’t feel any different,” said coach Kelvin Starr. “It would just be an honor to reach the milestone.”

The Mustangs (25-1) climbed two spots to a program-high No. 2 in the most recent poll on Jan. 30. They’ve since won a pair of games in Northern California against Menlo College and William Jessup and two home games over San Diego Christian and Arizona Christian.

Meanwhile, the nation’s No. 1 team, William Penn (Iowa), lost to unranked Graceland University (Iowa), 91-77, on Feb. 3.

Master’s, which hasn’t lost in three months, didn’t need a reminder before its game Saturday against Arizona Christian that a win would likely deliver the top spot.

“They were all aware of it,” Starr said.

It didn’t come easy, but Master’s made timely defensive stops down the stretch to secure a 78-66 win, its 24th straight win.

“I think we’re confident on the defensive side,” said senior guard Lawrence Russell, whose parents flew into town from Washington state to watch him play his final home game Saturday. “If we’re not getting shots to fall, we know we can dictate how we play on the defensive end.”

The Mustangs are 11-0 in Golden State Athletic Conference play and with a win Saturday at No. 16 Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Master’s would secure at least a share of the GSAC title for the first time in program history.

That, of course, has been the Mustangs’ most-pressing goal since the beginning of the season. Now, they’re just one win away.

“We know if we take care of winning GSAC, the rankings will take care of themselves,” Russell said.

White’s homers help TMU to weekend sweep

Mustang junior Preston White hit two home runs Saturday morning to propel TMU to a 9-8 come-from-behind win over Menlo College.

White has now hit safely in 11 of the Mustangs’ 13 games so far this season. He finished the game, which was part of a three-game set, 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Master’s finished the series with three wins over Menlo to move to 9-4 overall and 4-2 in GSAC play.

The No. 14 Mustangs will host No. 8 Hope International University (Fullerton) at TMU’s Lou Herwaldt Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday’s double-header starts at 11 a.m., with the second game set to start 30 minutes after the first game’s conclusion.

Lady Mustangs fall in tight battle with Arizona Christian

Looking to build on a three-game winning streak, Master’s women’s basketball pushed No. 23 Arizona Christian to the brink Saturday at TMU, but ultimately fell 75-70.

Anika Neuman led the Mustangs with 17 points. Hannah Ostrom followed with 14 points, and Brooke Bailey added 10.

TMU will play at NAIA No. 6 Westmont College in Santa Barbara on Saturday night.

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