January 3, 2017
La Mirada, Calif. -- The Master's University was just 16 seconds away from affirming its newly-minted No. 21 ranking by beating the nation's third-ranked team.
Four offensive rebounds later and a Dakari Archer three-pointer at the buzzer minimized all that as Biola edged the Mustangs in heart-breaking fashion, 66-64.
The crushing defeat prevented the Mustangs from beating their third nationally-ranked team of the season and dropped them to 11-2 overall and 1-2 in the GSAC.
Archer's game-winner punctuated an evening during which the Mustangs had a difficult time corralling rebounds, especially at the offensive end where Biola held a 16-7 advantage.
The last-second shot also spoiled a methodical comeback by a Mustang squad that led only twice in the first half and gained its final lead of the game with 59 seconds remaining when sophomore guard Hansel Atencia burned the Eagle defense with a layup for a 64-63 advantage.
Following the game, Mustang head coach Kelvin Starr gave props to the Biola All-American, saying, "Hats off to Archer for hitting a big-time shot at the end."
Much earlier, freshman Travis Yenor, who scored a team-high 19 points, gave the Mustangs an 11-10 lead with his second of five three-pointers at the 12:46 mark of the first half and a three-point play by Atencia a little over a minute later (11:19) put TMU ahead 14-12.
Biola responded with an 8-1 run and never trailed again until the final four minutes of play. The Eagles (15-1 overall, 1-1 GSAC) led by as many as nine points (33-24) in the first stanza and went to halftime ahead 37-30.
Yenor had 16 points (4-8 from behind the arc) at the break and senior Evan Jenkins added seven more as the Mustangs shot just 37.5% (9-24) from the field. Meanwhile, the Eagles converted a solid 54.5% (12-22) of their first-half shots.
Biola's accuracy would take a hit (26.7%) in the second half, though, as the Mustang defense clamped down and paved the way for a comeback.
A Tim Soares basket with 18:34 left to play pulled the Mustangs within 37-34, however, the Eagles answered with an 11-5 skein in a 3:20 span that helped them reclaim a nine-point advantage. The Eagles enjoyed two more nine-point leads (51-42 and 53-44), the second of which they held with 10:08 left in the game.
That's when the Mustangs began their march back. Sparked by seven points from Atencia, TMU outscored Biola 10-2 in a 2:12 window to get within one at 55-54. During that stretch, Atencia drained a three-pointer and added a couple of layups while Yenor hit one from behind the arc.
Biola did just enough to stay ahead for nearly three minutes until junior transfer Lawrence Russell knotted the game at 57 with a free throw at the 4:58 mark. Eagle Caelan Tiongson, who led all scorers with 20 points, unlocked the tie with two free throws and the 59-57 advantage held up until Atencia buried a lead-changing trifecta with 3:53 remaining.
That smallest of leads (60-59) lasted just 35 seconds as Jeff Gonzalez' three-point play edged the Eagles back in front by two. Another Tiongson free throw gave Biola a three-point lead before Russell knocked down two free throws and Atencia scored the layup that gave the Mustangs a 64-63 lead.
On Biola's and what turned out to be the game's final possession, all the Mustangs needed was one defensive rebound. Instead the Eagles collected four offensive boards, the last of which Gonzalez secured and got to Archer for the back-breaker.
Starr addressed that sequence after the game, saying, "We were one stop and defensive board away from winning on the road."
Tiongson had a lot to do with Biola's 46-26 domination on the boards, pulling down 17 rebounds, seven of those on the offensive end.
Yenor wound up going 5-11 from behind the arc en route to his team-high 19 points. Atencia had 16 more and senior Reid Shackelford chipped in with 11 points.
Starr, ready to turn the page on a tough loss, closed by saying, "It's tough to lose that way but we will get back to work and prep for a very good Hope (International) team."
That Hope International team Starr referred to will come to Bross Court Saturday evening for a 7:30pm start. The Royals were ranked as high as No. 15 in the NAIA Top 25 poll back in December, however, four losses in their last nine outings dropped them to "receiving votes" status.