February 9, 2013
Santa Clarita, CA -- Employing a sound strategy against The Master's College long-range sharpshooters, Biola led from start to finish Saturday evening, holding off the Mustangs 54-53 before a raucous crowd in a sold-out Bross Gym.
The loss came at a very inopportune time for the Mustangs who were looking to sweep the Eagles and move up the conference standings with the end of regular-season play looming. Instead, the defeat left the Mustangs, who have lost three of their past four, tied for last place in the GSAC (3-7) and 14-11 overall.
Rolling out a 2-3 zone to deal with the likes of Leif Karlberg (Anchorage, AK) and Derrick Fain (Dallas, TX), the Eagles dared the Mustangs to beat them from the outside. It worked early and late, notwithstanding a controversial trifecta at the buzzer that could have led to a tie game and overtime.
Early on, the Mustangs played right into the Eagles' plans, going 2-7 from behind the arc as the visitors built a 17-12 lead midway through the first stanza. Ironically, a Jeremy Pope three-pointer with 12:14 left in the half snapped a 12-all tie, triggering an 8-0 burst that put the Eagles in front to stay and Kyle Bailey capped it with another trifecta for a 20-12 advantage almost four minutes later.
Fain put an end to the skein on his club's next possession, burying his only long-range attempt of the half and putting an end to a four-minute scoring drought. Just as quickly, though, the Mustangs went back into a shell, failing to tally for nearly three minutes. Fortunately, the Eagles were having a difficult time finding the basket, too, producing just two free throws in a four-minute window and leading by just five points (22-17) when Bailey converted a free throw at the 4:18 mark.
They extended their lead to 24-17 on a Dakota Anderson jumper with 2:58 remaining and were still ahead by seven points (27-20) when the Mustangs put together a quick 6-0 burst that drew them to within a point. A Chris Patureau (Houston, TX) three-point play fueled the rally and Devin Dyer (Temecula, CA) finished it off with a trey. The Eagles answered with a Bailey jumper and that sent them to the halftime ahead 29-26.
The halftime numbers bore out the effectiveness of the Eagle zone as the Mustangs, who shot just 36% from the field, made only 5-15 from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the Eagles went 5-10 from long range and converted 44% overall.
Although the Mustangs stayed close, the Eagles' strategy continued to work as the hosts missed their first five attempts from behind the arc in the first six minutes of the closing stanza. Dyer put an end to that futility with a trifecta at the 12:07 mark pulling the Mustangs to within 39-35. The Eagles answered with four quick points to equal their largest lead of the evening but it took only a little over a minute for the Mustangs to shave six points off that deficit as Dyer and Karlberg hit consecutive triples, narrowing the gap to 43-41.
Biola lengthened the lead back to six points when seven-footer Mike Kurtz tallied four straight points but those were the final points the Eagles would score for nearly seven minutes and it almost cost them a win. The Mustangs' offensive game wasn't exactly sizzling either but a spectacular tip-in by Paul Brown keyed a 6-0 burst over a five-minute span that tied the game at 47. Jason Logan (Spartanburg, SC) tallied the other four points and his jumper at the two-minute mark evened things up.
It stayed that way until Pope nailed a jumper from the elbow with 46 seconds remaining and when the Biola guard picked Karlberg clean in the backcourt and was fouled, he converted both charity tosses for a four-point lead with 30 ticks left on the clock (51-47). Twenty-two seconds later, Pope hit one of two free throws for a 54-50 advantage and the Eagles needed every point of that lead because Fain drained a contested three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
It appeared that Fain might have been fouled on the shot, which would have sent the sophomore to the line with a chance to knot the game and send it into overtime, but the officials didn't see it that way and a frustrated Mustang bench was left with what could have been.
What should have been was better shooting from long distance but the Mustangs went just 4-17 from behind the arc over the final 20 minutes and finished 9-32.
Dyer led all scorers with 17 points while Logan played another superb game, notching his team-best double-double of the campaign with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Karlberg was the only other Mustang in double figures, tallying 10 points on just 4-16 shooting, including a 3-15 showing from behind the arc.
The quest for a higher seeding in the upcoming GSAC Tournament gets even more difficult Tuesday evening when the Mustangs travel to Santa Barbara to take on No. 6 Westmont, which enjoys a three-game lead at the top of the conference standings.