Soares seizes the moment

December 29, 2017

Box Score

Make no mistake: the Mustangs have no plans of making 6-foot-10 center Tim Soares their leader in three-point attempts.

But the sophomore’s time over the summer with the program’s all-time leader from behind the arc has extended Soares’ range, a skill displayed in TMU’s 105-86 win over the University of Antelope Valley in Santa Barbara on Friday.

Soares scored a career-high 33 points on 10-of-12 shooting in what was TMU's 12th straight victory. He made two of three three-point attempts and 11-of-14 tries from the line.

Over the summer, Soares spent up to five days a week at Master’s working with former Mustang and Los Angeles Laker Mike Penberthy, getting shots up and distancing himself from the rim.

The biggest difference?

“My shot was a little robotic,” said Soares, who had made 6-of-15 three-point attempts entering the night. “Now it’s more natural and a lot smoother.”

Soares did most of his damage Friday after the No. 5-ranked Mustangs (13-1) had built a 40-25 halftime lead, scoring 23 points and pulling down eight rebounds over the final 20 minutes.

Hansel Atencia was the team’s next brightest performer on a night it led by as many as 33 points. The point guard scored 15 points and dished out nine assists.

Master’s needed little help dispatching the Pioneers in the teams’ third meeting of the season. The Mustangs lost to UAV by three in early November, then rebounded for a resounding victory over the Pioneers two weeks later.

The rubber match started slowly.

Master’s led 5-4 after five minutes. Then TMU heated up. Delewis Johnson hit a layup at the 9:53 mark to put TMU up 20-8. The Mustangs never trailed.

“We were engaged and stayed focused on defense,” said Lawrence Russell, who scored five points to go with six rebounds.

Johnson finished with 12 points, while Mike Taylor followed with 10. His dunk with 3:14 to play gave Master's its biggest lead of the night and made all the more sure it would overcome the challenges of playing a team for a third time.

“You obviously know each other really well (at this point),” said TMU coach Kelvin Starr, “so you have to be that much more disciplined on both ends of the court.”

How would the coach describe Soares’ performance?

“Awesome,” Starr said. “He did it from the three, inside and at the line and was his usual dominant self on the defensive end.”

Collectively, the Mustangs were also their usual selves in terms of sharing the ball. One of the areas that hampered TMU in its early upset loss at UAV was that it only tallied 11 assists.

Friday, Master’s had 21 assists on 39 buckets. It shot 58 percent for the game, while limiting the Pioneers, which beat Westmont earlier this month and received votes in the most recent NAIA Division 2 poll, to 29% from the field in the first half.

Miles Nolen-Webb led UAV with 16 points. The Pioneers racked up 60 points off the bench. But it wasn’t enough to drop Master’s to its first loss since Nov. 3.

The Mustangs will play the University of Alberta (Canada) at Westmont on Saturday at 5 p.m. as they continue competing in the 42nd annual Tom Byron Classic. The game will be live streamed at GoMustangs.com.