TMU Insider: Men’s basketball revisits rivalry with Azusa Pacific
By Mason Nesbitt, Contributor
Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

The Master’s University men’s basketball team will recognize its opponent in Thursday night’s home opener, the Mustangs rekindling an old conference rivalry before what’s expected to be a capacity crowd. And, you too might recognize the visiting team, or at least two key contributors with Santa Clarita Valley ties.

The Mustangs, almost a sure bet to open the season in the top five of the NAIA’s national rankings, will host Azusa Pacific University for an exhibition game at 8 p.m.

The Cougars, who feature Canyon High grads Selom Mawugbe and Ben Taufahema, transitioned from the Golden State Athletic Conference and the NAIA to the NCAA Division 2 ranks a handful of years ago. But that hasn’t kept the Cougars and Master’s from reuniting on a fairly regular basis.

The teams played an exhibition last season, with TMU turning a three-point halftime lead into a comfortable 12-point win at APU.

“To play them again at our home with our crowd is exciting,” said junior guard Darryl McDowell-White, a Fresno State transfer.

This year’s game is expected to be closer, with Mawugbe and Taufahema likely making an impact for the Cougars, if to varying degrees.

Taufahema averaged 4.3 points a game last season and made 35% of his three-point shots.

Mawugbe is coming off a breakout sophomore season. The 6-foot-10 forward started all 32 games for a Cougars team that won 21 of them and advanced to the second round of the Division 2 national tournament. He blocked a single-season school record 89 shots and presents an intriguing matchup for TMU’s own 6-10 center, Tim Soares.

A year ago, Soares set a new mark at Master’s for blocks in a season (90, oddly enough), and he’ll again anchor a Mustang defense that hopes to be more-consistently stingy.

Master’s went 29-3 and reached a No. 1 ranking in the NAIA top 25 for the first time in program history a year ago largely behind an explosive offensive attack that averaged 93 points a game – third most in the country.

The Mustangs return four starters and nine veterans in all for 2018-19, highlighted by two NAIA All-Americans: Soares and point guard Hansel Atencia.

Atencia averaged 18 points a game for the Colombian Senior National Team over the summer, playing against former NBA players at times.

Guard Delewis Johnson and forward Brock Gardner also have All-American potential.

Azusa Pacific should provide a tall test as to where the Mustangs stand to open the season. But Master’s believes it’s ready for the challenge.

“I think it’s going to be a really close game,” said Johnson, who averaged nine points and five rebounds last year and has emerged as a leader of this group. “You might call it a powerhouse matchup in the beginning of the year.”

It won’t get any easier for TMU. At least not in the early going.

Master’s will travel to play NCAA Division 2 Concordia University Irvine in another exhibition Saturday before trekking to Texas to play LSU Alexandria and LSU Shreveport at a tournament on Nov. 1 and 2.

Both teams are expected to open the season in the top 15 of NAIA rankings.

Tickets

General admission is $8. Students from institutions other than Master’s are admitted for $3 with a valid school ID. Family passes, which provide access for your immediate family members to all of TMU’s sporting events, can be purchased for $125.

For more information on The Master’s University Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.

About the author

Mason Nesbitt

Mason Nesbitt, Contributor

TMU Insider: Men’s basketball revisits rivalry with Azusa Pacific

The Master’s University men’s basketball team will recognize its opponent in Thursday night’s home opener, the Mustangs rekindling an old conference rivalry before what’s expected to be a capacity crowd. And, you too might recognize the visiting team, or at least two key contributors with Santa Clarita Valley ties.

The Mustangs, almost a sure bet to open the season in the top five of the NAIA’s national rankings, will host Azusa Pacific University for an exhibition game at 8 p.m.

The Cougars, who feature Canyon High grads Selom Mawugbe and Ben Taufahema, transitioned from the Golden State Athletic Conference and the NAIA to the NCAA Division 2 ranks a handful of years ago. But that hasn’t kept the Cougars and Master’s from reuniting on a fairly regular basis.

The teams played an exhibition last season, with TMU turning a three-point halftime lead into a comfortable 12-point win at APU.

“To play them again at our home with our crowd is exciting,” said junior guard Darryl McDowell-White, a Fresno State transfer.

This year’s game is expected to be closer, with Mawugbe and Taufahema likely making an impact for the Cougars, if to varying degrees.

Taufahema averaged 4.3 points a game last season and made 35% of his three-point shots.

Mawugbe is coming off a breakout sophomore season. The 6-foot-10 forward started all 32 games for a Cougars team that won 21 of them and advanced to the second round of the Division 2 national tournament. He blocked a single-season school record 89 shots and presents an intriguing matchup for TMU’s own 6-10 center, Tim Soares.

A year ago, Soares set a new mark at Master’s for blocks in a season (90, oddly enough), and he’ll again anchor a Mustang defense that hopes to be more-consistently stingy.

Master’s went 29-3 and reached a No. 1 ranking in the NAIA top 25 for the first time in program history a year ago largely behind an explosive offensive attack that averaged 93 points a game – third most in the country.

The Mustangs return four starters and nine veterans in all for 2018-19, highlighted by two NAIA All-Americans: Soares and point guard Hansel Atencia.

Atencia averaged 18 points a game for the Colombian Senior National Team over the summer, playing against former NBA players at times.

Guard Delewis Johnson and forward Brock Gardner also have All-American potential.

Azusa Pacific should provide a tall test as to where the Mustangs stand to open the season. But Master’s believes it’s ready for the challenge.

“I think it’s going to be a really close game,” said Johnson, who averaged nine points and five rebounds last year and has emerged as a leader of this group. “You might call it a powerhouse matchup in the beginning of the year.”

It won’t get any easier for TMU. At least not in the early going.

Master’s will travel to play NCAA Division 2 Concordia University Irvine in another exhibition Saturday before trekking to Texas to play LSU Alexandria and LSU Shreveport at a tournament on Nov. 1 and 2.

Both teams are expected to open the season in the top 15 of NAIA rankings.

Tickets

General admission is $8. Students from institutions other than Master’s are admitted for $3 with a valid school ID. Family passes, which provide access for your immediate family members to all of TMU’s sporting events, can be purchased for $125.

For more information on The Master’s University Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.