December 18, 2017
Mostly dominating from start to finish in 10 of its first 11 games, The Master's University men's basketball team hasn't had to rally from too many deficits in the first two months of the 2017-18 season.
The Mustangs had to on Monday evening, and they did it in dramatic fashion with a game-ending flurry that produced an 80-71 triumph over Grand View of Iowa on the second day of the Cactus Classic at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
"We came out and got smacked in the face in the first half tonight,' said second-year head coach Kelvin Starr.
Still, the NAIA No. 5 Mustangs have now won 10 in a row and are 11-1.
Trailing 71-70 with less than two minutes left to play, the Mustangs turned to big man Tim Soares, who canned the go-ahead jumper that sparked the decisive, 10-0 run. Soares added two steals and a couple of rebounds down the stretch, too.
Much earlier, the Mustangs trailed by 16 points (49-33) when Grand View's Nathan Washington converted a layup with 18:32 left in the game.
On the verge of being blown out, the Mustangs put into practice Starr's halftime challenge.
"We challenged the guys to get it back one defensive possession at a time," the coach said.
That they did as they methodically chipped away at the deficit the rest of the way.
Junior Delewis Johnson started it with a 3-pointer that fueled a 12-4 spurt. His layup with 14:26 on the clock capped it and sliced the margin into single digits (53-45).
Darryl McDowell-White's layup at the 10:54 mark made it a five-point game (55-50), and when Brock Gardner dunked with 8:18 left, the Mustangs had pulled within 61-57.
That was part of a 15-6 run that McDowell-White finished off with a 3-pointer to put the Mustangs ahead (69-67) for the first time since midway through the first half.
Grand View regained the lead, 71-70, with 2:18 left to play on two free throws But those were the Vikings' last points of the evening while the Mustangs were on the cusp of their game-ending run.
"We responded big time in the second half, holding Grand View to 24 points on 24% shooting," Starr said.
The Mustangs dug themselves a double-digit hole in the opening half when the Vikings closed with a rush, scoring 17 of the final 20 points to lead 47-33 at the break.
The Vikings shot just under 56% from the field in the first stanza while limiting the Mustangs to just 30% shooting. Those numbers were more than reversed over the final 20 minutes as the Mustangs heated up to 55% while holding the Vikings to the aforementioned 24%.
Atencia paced a quartet of Mustangs in double figures with a game-high-tying 22 points. Johnson added 11 more while Soares and Lawrence Russell had 10 points apiece.
Gardner had a big evening on the boards, taking down a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with a game-high five assists.
The Mustangs conclude their rigorous three-game Cactus Classic schedule on Tuesday when they face NAIA No. 17 Montana Western at 10:00 a.m. PST.