TMU Insider: Mustangs take down top-ranked teams

By the time Saturday’s men’s basketball game was in full swing at William Jessup University in Rocklin, The Master’s University’s women’s team had settled into the bleachers for a postgame meal.

“Don’t know if you could see it,” said Jessup’s play-by-play broadcaster on the game’s livestream. “But a Master’s assistant coach just walked by with like 12 pizzas.”

“Well, they earned it,” replied the color commentator. “They played a great game.”

TMU women’s basketball beat William Jessup 64-43, completing a two-game sweep of the Golden State Athletic Conference’s Northern California schools that never comes easy.  

This time in particular.

The No. 5-ranked Mustangs took down No. 16 Menlo, 70-60, on Thursday for their eighth win this season against a ranked opponent. Master’s is 8-2 against ranked teams as part of one of the country’s most difficult schedules to this point.

Coach Dan Waldeck believes a tough non-conference slate – one that included wins over then-No. 3 Wayland Baptist (Texas) and No. 7 Carrol College (Montana) – helped prepare the Mustangs for a conference schedule lined with ranked teams.

As of Monday, six GSAC teams were in the NAIA Division 1 top 25, and Jessup was receiving votes.

Master’s has beaten each of those squads at least once, its only conference loss coming in December at Arizona Christian.

Since then, the Mustangs have won 15 of their last 16 games and have moved into sole possession of first place in the GSAC.

Master’s holds a two-game lead over No. 25 Arizona Christian and No. 14 Westmont with five conference games left.  

The Mustangs have done it with one of the nation’s best defenses, holding opponents to 31% shooting and an average of 51.3 points a night. Both marks rank among the five best nationally.

“I still don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet,” said Waldeck, who praised his team for focusing on one game at a time.  

“We didn’t talk about Jessup until we played Menlo,” he said. “We didn’t mention Hope until we played Jessup, and after that, it will be the same thing. We are staying in the moment.”

Master’s will travel to Fullerton to take on Hope International on Thursday before hosting San Diego Christian at TMU on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Men’s basketball looking to rebound

As TMU men’s basketball coach Kelvin Starr sat in his office breaking down film Monday morning, he saw plenty for his team to improve on after two losses in Northern California.

The No. 7-ranked Mustangs lost 93-81 to Menlo College in Atherton on Thursday and 90-84 to No. 18 William Jessup in double overtime on Saturday in Rocklin.

It was the first time Master’s had lost back-to-back games since January 2017 and the first time it allowed at least 90 points in consecutive games since the 2015-16 season.

Part of the problem was consistency.

“We have to play well for 40 minutes,” said Starr, whose team is 1 ½ games behind first-place Vanguard in GSAC standings with six games to go. “We can’t have five-minute stretches because it comes back to bite you.”

The Mustangs (19-5, 8-4 in GSAC) clawed their way back from a 13-point halftime deficit against Jessup by playing stellar defense for the first 6 minutes, 27 seconds of the second period.

The Warriors didn’t score during that time, and Master’s eventually pulled ahead, setting the stage for a back-and-forth ending.

Darryl McDowell-White made TMU’s first three-pointer of the game with 36 seconds left in regulation to give Master’s a one-point lead.

But after Hansel Atencia’s two free throws extended the advantage, Jessup converted a three-point play with 13 seconds left to force overtime.

Three-point shooting, as it has been all season, was an issue for the Mustangs. Master’s made 1-of-14 in the game.

“It’s tough to beat anybody when you make one shot from the perimeter,” said Starr.

The Mustangs will look to bounce back at Hope International in Fullerton on Thursday and at home on Saturday against San Diego Christian. Tip-off Saturday is at 7:30 p.m.

TMU has yet to face Hope this season, but San Diego Christian upset the Mustangs on the road in December, 82-80.

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Mason Nesbitt

Mason Nesbitt, Contributor