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Men's Basketball - Mon, Mar. 6, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Liam Hunt (left) and Reid Shackelford (right) will lead their teams on Tuesday in the Darling Pavilion
Liam Hunt (left) and Reid Shackelford (right) will lead their teams on Tuesday in the Darling Pavilion

FULLERTON, CA – Hope International is set to host its third consecutive GSAC Tournament Championship on Tuesday, March 7 at 5:00 pm on the women's side and 8:00 pm for the men. For the fourth consecutive season, the men of HIU will be playing in the GSAC Tournament title game.

HIU entered this season with lower expectations from its conference opponents after reloading the roster from last year to this. At one point the Royals were dropped from the Top 25 and stayed out of the poll for almost a month. In response, the Royals wreaked havoc through the 2017 half of the schedule – the Royals finished the regular season on a 14-2 tear that included a nine-game winning streak and eight wins against GSAC teams included in the NAIA Top 25, either with a ranking or while receiving votes. This is the fourth straight season that HIU finds itself in the Title hunt and the fifth where HIU has made it at least to the GSAC Semifinals.

The Royals will be facing No. 14 The Master's Mustangs in the GSAC Finals this season. HIU enters the matchup with a 25-6 overall record, a 13-3 GSAC record during the regular season, and a perfect 17-0 record this season when playing on their home floor. HIU has outscored GSAC opponents by an average of 13 points/game at home this year with an average final score of 72-59 at home.

The Royals have held GSAC opponents to 36.7% shooting from the field in the Darling Pavilion and just 25.8% from beyond the three-point arc. The Royals also boast a rebounding margin of +10 at home and are the best rebounding team in both the GSAC and the NAIA this season. Defensively, the Royals are ranked third in the nation for scoring defense with the top ranking in field goal percentage and thre-point field goal percentage defense.

For its part, The Master's enters the game tomorrow night with a 25-4 overall record and a 12-4 mark against GSAC teams in the regular season. TMU has the fourth-best offense in all the NAIA and averages 88.0 points per game while shooting 49.3% from the field as a team. Their team field goal percentage is seventh in the NAIA and they average almost nine made triples per game this season.

The Royals are led by reigning GSAC Player of the Year Liam Hunt – Hunt averages 13.3 points/game and 9.5 rebounds/game in addition to 2.7 assists/game and almost a block per game. Hunt is countered on the other side by the reigning GSAC Defensive Player of the Year for TMU in Lawrence Russell. Russell leads his team in rebounds and steals and has routinely defended opponents' best offensive player.

When asked about the Finals matchup, Coach Bill Czech replied "The Master's is playing as well as anyone in the NAIA right now, really all year, they're good – they play hard, together, tough, well-coached, and they should be a real handful. We'll give it we everything we have and our guys focused."

It should be a great GSAC Finals matchup – the game will be available on Fox Sports West again this year. If you plan to attend in person, Tournament ticket prices are $10 for adults, $5 for students/seniors and $15 for a premium seat.

M - Basketball
Overall GSAC Streak
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