The Master’s University men’s basketball team hosted La Sierra University at The MacArthur Center on Thursday and put a home-game winning streak on the line.
With the Mustangs’ second-leading scorer, 6-foot-11 center Tim Soares, in warmups, Brock Gardner and Michael Taylor teamed up in his absence and combined to score 51 points and 23 rebounds in a 78-72 TMU victory.
“It feels good,” Gardner said about the 44th-consecutive home win. “It’s always nice to keep the streak alive and head into Saturday with a positive mindset. We were a little sloppy tonight, but the fact that we were able to get the ‘W’ as a team is big time.”
TMU (10-0 overall) jumped out to an early lead with Taylor’s physicality and elite low post moves as he got the Mustangs’ crowd off its feet with a couple of emphatic slams in the opening minutes.
Taylor finished the game with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
“He had a different motor tonight,” said TMU men’s head coach Kelvin Starr. “If he can do that with Tim back in the lineup, that makes us so much better, so that’s really positive moving forward for us.”
Although La Sierra was outmatched physically to begin the contest, the Golden Eagles responded with a 7-0 run to take their first and only lead of the game seven minutes into the match, up 11-10.
The next time down the court, Gardner pulled up for a 3-pointer and ignited a 10-0 Mustang run to extend the lead.
Gardner finished with a game-high 40 points and hit 5-of-11 3’s to finish shooting 50% from the field.
However, La Sierra hung with TMU and only trailed by five heading into halftime, down 33-28.
Finishing the first half shooting 20 percent from 3-point range, the Mustangs came out on fire to begin the second half. Gardner hit back-to-back 3’s and by the end of the scoring barrage and the Mustangs had drained seven 3’s in the first nine minutes of the second half to lead 60-45.
“We just realized it was a little too close for comfort and we needed either something inside or something outside to fall for us,” Gardner said. “I ended up hitting a couple of 3’s right off the bat and that kind of got us going for the rest of the half.”
Things got a little sloppy down the stretch as La Sierra would not go away without a fight. The Golden Eagles’ center, Saladine Ganda, who was in foul trouble early, started to impose his will down low on the offensive glass to keep the visitors within striking range.
La Sierra got within two points of the Mustangs with under three minutes to go in the game, but free throws down the stretch insured TMU 44-game home winning streak.
“It’s good, it keeps you humble,” Starr said of the close win. “We have a big game against San Diego Christian on Saturday so it’s a wake-up call, you’re not going to walk through everybody.”
The Mustangs host San Diego Christian at The MacArthur Center on at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.