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TMC men's basketball: Third time no charm

GSAC Tournament: TMC men’s basketball team falls to Azusa Pacific University in opening round

Posted: March 4, 2010 11:00 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.
AZUSA - The Master's College men's basketball team found out just how hard it is to beat a squad three times in a season on Thursday in the first round of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament.

Despite two previous wins, the Mustangs' woes on offense resulted in an 80-56 loss to Azusa Pacific University in Azusa.

"They just played better than us tonight," said TMC head coach Chuck Martin. "We started off strong, but they made their shots. All the concerns that we were worried about the first two times, which we stayed away from, manifested themselves tonight."

Azusa's all-conference forward Dominique Johnson was a big part of that concern. He stayed quiet in the teams' first two meetings, but led the Cougars with 25 points on Thursday.

TMC caught fire early, taking a 17-12 lead eight minutes into the first half, thanks to a Leif Karlberg 3-pointer and several big buckets from forward Raphael Harris.

When the Cougars (22-9) tried to push the pace, TMC (18-13) seemed ready to answer.

But Azusa kept at it.

The score was quickly leveled at 18-18 on a steal and fastbreak-dunk by Johnson, who made big plays on both ends for the Cougars.

Johnson helped force three straight Mustang turnovers that turned into a 6-0 run, and TMC trailed 24-18 at the eight-minute mark.

Martin called a timeout to slow the pace, but Azusa forced another series of TMC mistakes on offense that led to another 6-0 APU run.

The Mustangs found themselves behind 30-19 at the five-minute mark.

The Cougars never looked back.

TMC forward Dean Hadley kept Johnson in check on offense for most of the first half, but he and Cougars forward Caleb Burgess caught fire just before the break.

Thomas Millar scored 12 points to lead TMC on the night, Harris added nine points and Hadley contributed eight.

Johnson had the biggest impact on the defensive end, stifling TMC's dribble penetration. Azusa's efforts left the Mustangs with an eight-minute field goal drought in the first half.

Mustangs forward Richard LaFleur scored five unanswered points to end TMC's dry spell, but a pair of 3-pointers by Burgess left TMC trailing 39-29 at the half.

The Cougars' perimeter defense kept the Mustangs grounded in the second half, and Azusa shot 54 percent from the field to build a 51-37 lead with 12 minutes left.

TMC picked up its seventh team foul shortly after, and Azusa sank both free throws to push its lead to 16 before Martin called another timeout.

Mustangs guard Joey Fuca, the team's second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game, picked up his fourth foul a few plays later, and things began to look grim for TMC.

Fuca finished with seven points.

Azusa sank 10-of-12 free throws in the second half, and eventually it built a 20-point lead with eight minutes left before putting the game on cruise control.

TMC beat Azusa 72-69 on Dec. 1 at Azusa to open conference play, and then 65-62 on Feb. 2 at Bross Gym.

Azusa head coach Justin Leslie said the prospect of a three-game sweep at TMC's hands was something that played heavily into his team's psyche for the game.

Before a practice, the team watched film of someone riding a broom around Bross Gym after APU's second loss to TMC near the end of the regular season.

He added that someone put "about 75 brooms" in the Cougars' locker room before Thursday's game.

"So, yeah, I'd say that definitely had something to do with it," Leslie said.


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