SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – Saturday's thrilling 77-76 double overtime victory over the seventh-ranked Arizona Christian Firestorm may have been exactly what The Master's College men's basketball team needed.
Considering that four days ago the squad suffered a 74-65 loss to the 25th-ranked Hope International Royals, Saturday's victory has a dual-service potential.
On a surface level, the Mustangs rebounded to a 1-1 GSAC record and a 13-4 overall record with the win. But going deeper, the upset over the nation's seventh-ranked team might be the inspirational spark that can ignite a strong conference schedule run.
"I thought our guys were really tough and resilient tonight," commented head coach Chuck Martin. "To give the lead away like we did against a great team and then recover and find a way to win is really a good sign for us. We had some really good individual performances, but I thought overall it was a great team win."
In a strong first half, TMC controlled the court from the get go. Maintaining a lead which ranged from 1-8 points, the Mustangs played a fundamentally sound game which manifested in a 34-26 halftime lead.
At the break, TMC went 14-31 (45%) from the field and 6-12 (50%) behind the arc. The Mustangs put up six points in the paint, while TMC's bench posted 11 more.
All seemed to be going according to plan for Martin's Mustangs after the break as the squad earned its largest lead of the night (11 points) twice in the opening five minutes. However, the Firestorm methodically began to chop at TMC's lead until a Jason Timpf dunk gave ACU a two-point lead and sparked an 8-1 run over the next three minutes.
With 5:47 left on the clock, the Mustangs faced a 57-51 score in favor of the Firestorm. But, TMC's Dominique Lanier posted 7 points while Bernard Ireland posted a three-pointer which tied the game at 61-61, forcing overtime.
After trading leads back and forth in the first overtime, Ireland posted another three-pointer and brought the score to 68-68 with 44 seconds left on the clock, forcing a second overtime.
Ireland opened up the second overtime with another three-pointer, bringing the score to 71-68. Determined to live up its lofty national ranking, the Firestorm fought back to take the lead. With 1:06 left to play, ACU's Jordan Block drove in a layup, giving the firestorm a 76-75 advantage. But, in heroic fashion, TMC's Korey Anderson answered back in the frame's final second with a jumper that ended the game in favor of the Mustangs at 77-76.
Anderson posted TMC's lone double-double by scoring 17 points and yanking down 11 rebounds. Both Ireland and Lanier scored 14 points apiece. Notably, Lanier led the squad in assists by posting 8 dimes, while Chris Patureau pulled down 11 boards and scored 8 points.
As a team, TMC went 28-70 (40%) from the field, 11-30 (40%) behind the arc, and 10-11 (90%) on free throws.
Now, Martin and his Mustangs will try to make lightning strike twice this Tuesday when the Mustangs travel to No. 10 Concordia for a 7:30 p.m. contest.