TMU men’s basketball dominates in final home game

The Master's University's Brock Gardner (22) drives in to score against Life Pacific defender Adam Vasquez (24) in the second half at TMU on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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No. 20 The Master’s University secured a dominant 105-73 win over Life Pacific University Thursday night at The MacArthur Center during the Mustangs’ final home game of the season.

“Super proud of all the seniors, this is the last home game of their careers,” said TMU head coach Kelvin Starr. “It’s just fun to watch them have joy and success because they’ve given us so many wins.”

The Mustangs (22-7 overall, 12-5 GSAC) benefitted from a glaring size mismatch early on. Senior Tim Soares (29 points) used his 6-foot-11 frame to tip the ball to senior Darryl McDowell-White (13 points) which triggered a 13-5 run for TMU.

“We were going to try and go through Tim all night the best we could,” Starr said. “He did a really good job stealing and running the floor hard and finishing inside. We knew they were a good 3-point shooting team. It’s really probably the only way they were going to hang with our size. So, we made sure to push hard on the 3-point line.”

The Warriors used the 3-ball to its advantage. A 3-pointer from Life Pacific junior Andre Allen (18 points) ended the run and gave the Warriors a chance to claw back. Thanks to another three from junior Colin Cunniff (17 points) midway through the first half, the Warriors drained the Mustang lead to just one point.

Master’s looked as if it lost all momentum and Life Pacific was poised to take over the rest of the half. However, the Mustangs solved the issue and took control of the game once again.

The Master’s University’s Tim Soares (12) slam dunks against Life Pacific in the first half at TMU on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

A 3-point play from junior DJ Wilson (12 points) kicked off a dominant run for TMU. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Master’s outscored the Warriors 29-18. The run was possible thanks to a string of threes started by senior Brock Gardner (18 points, eight rebounds). 

Backup came in the form of Wilson, McDowell-White, and sophomore Jordan Starr (15 points, eight assists). They combined for another five 3-pointers for the Mustangs.

“We’ve struggled to shoot the three all year,” Kelvin Starr said. “We’ve been working hard in practice the last two weeks to fine-tune our offense and get easier looks. I felt like tonight we shot the ball really well. It makes it easier to play D.”

The Mustangs truly showed a return to form when McDowell-White displayed a level of basketball IQ that left the Warrior defense stunned. As he charged the basket, McDowell-White faked a pass then lobbed the ball up himself. 

The play got the crowd engaged in the game once again. TMU fed off of the energy and went into the locker room with a 51-39 lead.

When both teams returned to the court, Life Pacific (7-20, 3-14) attempted to bite back, but the Mustangs carried the momentum they had built in the first half through the start of the second. They quickly added another 10 points to their lead.

The second half was truly just a continuation of the final minutes of the first. Master’s erased all the issues it had in the first half and relentlessly built on its first-half lead. Each play was so routine that there began to be a lull in the crowd.

McDowell-White made sure to wake the crowd back up with an impressive play. Running the length of the court, he charged the other basket to stop a fast break layup with an athletic block. 

The crowd was fully re-engaged in the game when Starr made the decision to replace his entire squad with fresh legs in the final two-and-a-half minutes. The crowd was roused as the Mustangs’ bench players trotted onto the court. Especially when the Warriors still couldn’t claw into a lead that had grown into over 30 points. In fact, the Mustangs continued to build on their lead.

The Master’s University’s DJ Wilson (3) hits three-pointer against Life Pacific in the first half at TMU on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Master’s will play its final regular season game against Vanguard University at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Costa Mesa.

“I’d just like to finish with a win,” Starr said.

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