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Men's Basketball - Thu, Feb. 9, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Donny Punter scored 20 for HIU to help sweep the season series (Photo by Liza Rosales)
Donny Punter scored 20 for HIU to help sweep the season series (Photo by Liza Rosales)
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(23)The Master's University
(RV)Hope International

FULLERTON, CA – (RV) Hope International University hosted its second-to-last home game of the 2016-17 regular season with a tilt against No. 23 The Master's on Thursday and came away with another win to sweep the season series. HIU has now won its last 11 in a row against The Master's but tonight's battle was by no means the easiest as the Royals would trail by as many as 12 on their home court.

HIU became the third team in the GSAC with 20 wins after the regulation victory against TMU and has now tallied at least 20 wins in the past five straight seasons under head coach Bill Czech.

The Royals got off to a hot start offensively but struggled to contain the Mustangs early on and allowed TMU to jump in front seven minutes in with a two-handed dunk by the TMU big man Soares. A bucket in the paint on the other end gave HIU a temporary lead again, but the Mustangs regained control and reeled off a 12-0 run to lead 28-16 with just under nine minutes to go in the half.

HIU rocked back after taking the Mustangs' best punch and were able to close the gap with a concentrated effort in the latter minutes of the opening half – a 21-9 run by the Royals tied the ballgame at 39-39 with a minute left and that score would hold up until the buzzer for a 39-39 tally at the intermission.

The Royals had to battle again for the lead in the second half in an instant classic with both teams making tough shots at each end. The Royals led by six four minutes into the second half but the Mustangs rallied back to within one two minutes later and took a five-point lead with 10 minutes left after a quick 6-0 run.

Liam Hunt (JR/San Anselmo, CA) would answer a Mustangs trey with one of his own to cut the TMU lead to two, 54-52 with 10:32 to play, and the Royals would go on to run up a nine-point lead with 5:52 left to play after another triple by Hunt. A late push by the Mustangs trimmed the lead to seven with under a minute remaining but the Royals were able to make their free throws down the stretch for an 82-72 final and their eighth win in a row.

"The guys are really together [for us], this conference really tests you mentally, physically, emotionally – it presses you but we have great leadership that keep us very steady at all times and the guys just play really hard… it really comes down to desire and our guys have been very connected the last few games," Coach Czech said of the win after the game.

Donny Punter (JR/Long Island, NY) led the offense for HIU with 20 points on 45% shooting from the field with a trey and seven assists to go with five boards. Hunt just missed a double-double with 15 points and eight boards before fouling out in the final moments. Punter and Hunt were joined by Deondre Bryant (JR/Santa Ana, CA) (12), Charles Trotter (SO/Slidell, LA) (12), and Josh Smith (SR/National City, CA) (11) as five Royals scored in double figures against The Master's.

The Royals needed every ounce of offense to knock off a tough TMU squad that got a game-high 27 points from their sharpshooter Shackelford who found a way to get his buckets despite shooting just 25% from downtown.

The Royals improve to 20-5 overall with a 9-2 tally in conference, currently tops on the GSAC leaderboard, and will travel to Vanguard on Saturday for their next test before making the trip to Phoenix on Feb. 14 to face Arizona Christian.

 
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