PHOENIX, Ariz. – Number three seeded Arizona Christian University (19-8), ranked 24th in the NAIA National Top 25 Coaches' poll, defeated The Master's College (16-14), 84-72, in a GSAC Men's Basketball Tournament first-round game, Thursday, Feb. 28, at Fultz Memorial Gymnasium on the ACU campus in Phoenix. Arizona Christian won 13 of its 15 home contests at Fultz Gymnasium this season and won its first-ever GSAC Tournament game.
The Master's led 18-15 with 10:23 left in the first half when Arizona Christian began a run of 14 consecutive points, including six points by junior forward Jordan Block (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Claremont H.S./Pasadena City College) and four by freshman forward Mike Navar (Chino, Calif./Chino Hills H.S.), and grabbed a 29-18 lead with 4:29 left and led 36-24 at halftime. The Mustangs scored just six points in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
The Master's cut Arizona Christian's lead to 10 points twice in the first seven minutes of the second half, but the Firestorm put together a 12-2 run and reached its widest margin of the game, 64-44, with 9:24 left in the game. Consecutive three-point field goals plus one free throw to complete a rare four-point play by junior guard Talib Uqdah (Detroit, Mich./Westview H.S. (Avondale, Ariz.)/Chandler-Gilbert CC) gave Arizona Christian its only 20-point advantage of the contest.
However, the Mustangs sliced into Arizona Christian's lead with 15-5 streak over the next 4:16 and trailed just 69-64 with 5:08 remaining. Guard Jason Logan accounted for 10 points during the run with 2 three-pointers, a steal and a dunk and another lay-up, and guard Devin Dyer scored five points, including one three-pointer. Arizona Christian still led by just five, 71-66, with 3:26 left, but rebuilt its lead to 13 points after three-pointers by Uqdah and junior guard Mason Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View H.S./Eastern Oregon Univ.) plus seven free throw in 10 attempts, including 4-for-4 by Uqdah in the last 1:36. Uqdah scored 23 points in the second half, and Logan scored 19 in the second half for The Master's.
Uqdah finished with 26 points, making 7 of 12 shots, 5 of 8 three-pointers and 7 of 8 free throws, and gathered four rebounds and passed three assists, and junior guard Charles King (Houston, Tex./Stephen F. Austin H.S./Phoenix College) totaled 17 points, 11 in the second half, one three-pointer, three rebounds and one steal. Jones added 10 points, 3 three-pointers, three rebounds, two assists and one steal, and Navar and junior forward Daniel Cornelius (Phoenix, Ariz./Phoenix Christian H.S.) each contributed six points and six rebounds. Block finished with six points, all in the first half, four rebounds and one blocked shot, and senior guard A.J. Koch (Tucson, Ariz./Flowing Wells H.S.) scored six points, with one three-pointer, one steal and three assists. Freshman forward Jackson Helms (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley H.S.) scored five points, gathered eight rebounds and blocked two shots.
Logan led The Master's with 29 points on 11 of 15 shots and 4 of 6 three-pointers, and had eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Dyer finished with 16 points, 12 in the second half, 2 three-pointers, a game-high 9 rebounds, and passed three assists, and guard Derrick Fain added 11 points, nine in the second half, 3 three-pointers, three rebounds and two assists. Guard Leif Karlberg, who had made 81 three-pointers this season, scored six points and grabbed four rebounds, but made none of his six three-point field goal attempts.
The Firestorm shot 26-for-58 from the field (.448) for the game, made 11 of its 23 three-point tries (.478) and 21 of its 27 free throws (.778), blocked five shots, stole the ball from The Master's four times, and committed 12 turnovers. The Master's, which committed 13 turnovers and out-rebounded Arizona Christian, 39-38, made 27 of 66 shots (.409), 11 of 34 three-pointers (.324) and 7 of 14 free throws (.500), blocked six Arizona Christian shots, and stole the ball from Arizona Christian five times. Arizona Christian's bench players outscored The Master's, 24-10, and the Firestorm scored 15 points off Arizona Christian turnovers. The Master's outscored Arizona Christian, 32-20, on shots in the paint, and 14-12, on offensive rebounds.
In Thursday's other first-round GSAC games, Westmont, ranked number 11 in the NAIA, defeated number eight seeded San Diego Christian (7-17), 83-59, in Santa Barbara, and Hope International nipped Biola (15-16), 58-56, in Darling Pavilion in Fullerton. Concordia defeated number five seeded Vanguard (17-13), 97-91, in CU Arena in Irvine.
Arizona Christian, coached by Jeff Rutter, advances to a GSAC Tournament semifinal game, Saturday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time (6:30 Arizona time) at number one seeded Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, against number two seeded Hope International University (25-6), the number 17 ranked team in the NAIA. Westmont (25-6) also hosts number four seeded Concordia University (20-10) at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time in the other GSAC semifinal.