TMU Insider: No. 2 men’s basketball set for home tournament on Friday-Saturday

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: The explosive play of Brock Gardner has helped lift the Mustang men’s basketball team to a 9-2 start. Photo by Darcy Brown.

By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal

Coach Kelvin Starr believes The Master’s University men’s basketball team is in a good place after the season’s first 11 games.

The No. 2-ranked Mustangs are 9-2 and have won nine of their last 10 heading into a home tournament on Dec. 28 and 29.

The Mustangs, who average 92.3 points a game, will host two Southern California programs and one from Canada at TMU.

“Could have been better,” Starr said of the season’s start. “But it’s not bad. Keep chipping away at this thing.”

As part of the Jersey Mike’s Holiday Classic, the Mustangs will play the University of Antelope Valley on Dec. 28 (6 p.m.). The Pioneers pushed Master’s in a contest at UAV earlier this season, falling to TMU 74-66.

The Mustangs will then face the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m.

San Diego Christian College, one of the Mustangs’ Golden State Athletic Conference rivals, will also play Saskatchewan and UAV during the tournament.

General admission is $8. Children and seniors are $3. Children under 5 are free.

Women’s basketball welcomes the rest

After a vicious stretch of three games in three days, how ready was The Master’s University women’s basketball team for a break by the time Wednesday rolled around?

“Oh, I think we’re all ready,” said Rebekah Throns, a forward from Australia who’s put together a stellar all-around sophomore season to this point. “Physically, yes, but also mentally. Because we’re tired and losing focus, especially with finals as well. We haven’t really had a break from that. So we’re ready. Ready to be back with our families and stuff, for most of the girls.”

Master’s (9-4) closed this portion of its schedule by going 2-1 last week. The No. 22-ranked Mustangs beat No. 3 Wayland Baptist on Dec. 17 in one of the program’s best-ever defensive performances, holding the Flying Queens to roughly 40 points below their season average of 91-plus points. A day later, TMU fell to an upstart Lewis-Clark State team that entered the week receiving votes in the NAIA top 25.

Master’s closed the week Wednesday with a commanding win over Cornerstone University (Mich.). TMU forced 31 turnovers and 6-foot-6 freshman Stephanie Soares added 18 points and 10 rebounds for her ninth double-double.

Now, the challenge is to not lose steam.

“You have to be super disciplined to get out there and get shots up, find time to work out, run, keep your fitness up,” Throns said. “You lose fitness really quickly, so you have to be disciplined
to stay on top of it.”

Coach Dan Waldeck sees both positives and negatives in a break that will run until next week when the team returns to practice ahead of a home game on Dec. 29.

The Mustangs will host La Sierra University that day at 7 p.m.

“It’s a challenge,” Waldeck said of the break. “We’re going to come back rusty, but hopefully we’ll come back fresh. We need some of the kids to get rest. We don’t have a stretch of games back-to-back like this for a long time now. The games are spaced out, and we have a chance to
go get on a roll.”

The Mustangs will return to Golden State Athletic Conference play on Jan. 3, when TMU’s women (5:30 p.m.) and men (7:30) host William Jessup University.

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