There’s no easy way to say this: The Master’s University women’s basketball team has become a nuisance.
The key to the Mustangs’ recent string of stingy defensive efforts?
“We were pesky,” said TMU coach Dan Waldeck after a win last week in which No. 22-ranked TMU held Hope International without a point in the third quarter.
The Mustangs (7-3, 3-1 in Golden State Athletic Conference play) were at it again Saturday in El Cajon, California, limiting San Diego Christian to one field goal in the first half.
The Hawks managed four points in the first quarter, two in the second, and eight in the third of what became a 67-28 TMU win.
The Mustangs forced 18 turnovers, and the 28 points were among the fewest TMU has ever allowed in a game. The record came during the 1986-87 season when Master’s held Pacific Christian to 11 points.
Currently, the Mustangs rank seventh in NAIA Division 1 in defensive field goal percentage (opponents are shooting 33 percent), and they are 18th in scoring defense, allowing 57.8 points per game.
“For us, the biggest struggle was contesting three-point shots and not letting teams get the shot they want,” Valencia High grad and Mustang junior Sabrina Thompson said of what’s made the difference on defense lately. “We were giving up too much. We really buckled down in practice defensively and shifted our focus and mentality. We’ve been able to execute that a lot better.”
Thompson’s point echoed what Waldeck felt the Mustangs did best in the second half of that dominant win over Hope last week.
“We rotated really well and scrambled really hard to the three-point line. We contested better,” he said.
The Mustangs are allowing opponents to shoot 33 percent on threes for the season but just 30 percent in the last two games.
Now comes the biggest test of the season to this point. TMU will host NAIA No. 3 Wayland Baptist University (Texas) at TMU at 1 p.m. on Monday. General admission is $8.
Mustang eclipses 1,000 points
The Master’s University men’s basketball team likes to play fast, and none of its members more so than point guard Hansel Atencia.
It’s fitting then that Atencia recently reached a scoring milestone at breakneck speed.
Saturday night in El Cajon, the point guard surpassed 1,000 points for his Mustang career in just his 70th game with the program.
Atencia transferred to Master’s from Liberty University in Virginia before his sophomore season.
On his way to accomplishing the feat, Atencia has helped push Master’s to new heights.
He averaged 12 points a game in 2016-17, and TMU advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the first time since 2000.
The Colombian native tossed in 15.5 points a night last season as the Mustangs rose to an NAIA No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history and won the GSAC regular season and tournament titles.
This year, Atencia leads the team at 18.1 points a game with four assists on average.
The No. 2-ranked Mustangs, who were upset by San Diego Christian last Saturday, 82-80, will play at home on Saturday night against Westcliff University. Tip is at 7.
TMU will also host the University of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada) on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.
For more information on TMU Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.