This ranking stuff doesn’t seem to be working out for The Master’s College men’s basketball team. Two weeks ago, the Mustangs earned their way into the NAIA Top 25 for the first time in 2011-12 at No. 16. They promptly lost two games and dropped out of the poll.
Then, on Monday, the team came from the masses of the unranked and vaulted to No. 10. But, that lofty status lasted just one day as the Mustangs were knocked off by No. 16 Azusa Pacific 77-63 Tuesday evening.
The loss will not only tarnish the Mustangs’ ranking but more importantly, it dropped them out of first place in a three-way logjam for second. Halfway through GSAC play, the Mustangs are 6-3 in conference and 14-6 overall.
Early on, it appeared the Mustangs would live up to their new-found ranking as they surged to an 8-2 lead on the strength of a pair of three-pointers from Leif Karlberg and an Anthony Cammon jumper.
But, the host Cougars energized their fans with a defense that kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard for over four minutes and an offense that tore off a 10-1 run for a 12-9 lead with 11:18 left in the opening half.
The Mustangs answered back with a quick 5-0 spurt, taking a 14-12 lead on the strength of consecutive baskets by Mike Harmon, the last one from long range.
However, that advantage lasted less than 30 seconds when an Anthony Johnson jumper not only knotted the contest but triggered a 12-0 assault that put the Cougars ahead to stay.
The six-minute scoring drought came to an end when Devin Dyer drilled a three-pointer with 3:51 left in the first half but the damage had been done and the Mustangs eventually went to halftime down 31-22.
The Cougars shot at a 50% rate over the opening 20 minutes while the Mustangs finished at 31%.
What had been a competitive contest over the first 15 minutes of the game turned into a runaway in the opening seven minutes of the second half. The Cougar assault started with a modest 7-0 spurt in a 90-second window and when Kevin Stafford buried a three-pointer at the 13:24 mark, it completed what turned out to be a 17-5 run for a 48-27 advantage.
The Cougars enjoyed a semblance of that kind of separation for nearly 10 minutes until the Mustangs started to take big chunks out of the deficit with a game-ending rush that fell far short.
They closed to 11 points three times in the closing minutes but didn’t have enough left to make the Cougars nervous.
The Mustangs’ shooting improved to 44% in the second half but so did the Cougars’ who converted 52% of their shots.
Cammon led all scorers with 24 points, going 10-19 from the field while Harmon provided a spark off the bench with 14 more.
The Mustangs, hoping to avoid what happened two weeks ago, start the second half of GSAC play Saturday evening when they entertain San Diego Christian, a club they beat 77-60 on December 17. Tip-off is set for 7:30pm in Bross Gym.