Cal Lutheran basketball Coach Larry Lopez made all the obligatory remarks before his team took on The Master's Friday night. "Oh, they play tough. They play as hard as anyone we play." The only problem, of course, is that they don't play as well.
The Kingsmen, for sure, were looking forward to playing the 1-17 Mustangs. After battling through their first 17 games against primarily strong competition, the Kingsmen needed someone they could slap around a bit.
And, predictably, CLU beat The Master's, 115-93, on the Mustangs home floor.
"Aw shoot, we've got a bunch of forwards out there," said Master's Coach Randy Stem. "And they're all 6-4. No guards. No center."
In fact, the tallest Mustang player is freshman center Steve Hammond, who is 6-6. "But, he's a year or two away," Stem said. "At least."
Translation: the Mustangs are almost as bad as their record indicates.
The Kingsmen, meanwhile, are enjoying themselves these days.
Said Lopez: "We were patient on offense and we controled the game. We're playing really well. I'm really pleased."
And why not? CLU's record of 8-10 is one of the best in the school's rather miserable basketball history.
On this night, though, the misery was reserved for The Master's. The game was played in a series of surges. Early, the Kingsmen built a lead that crested at 18 points when guard Jeff Logsdon hit a long shot to put CLU ahead, 43-25.
Stem, who had seen this kind of thing too often this season, paced in front of his bench, mumbling to his players and occasionally blurting out orders to players and complaints to the referees.
"Come on," he screamed, "let's nail them to the floor."
Apparently, Pete Coeler was listening. He led his team back, scoring 17 points in the first half, to cut CLU's lead to three.
But the Kingsmen surged back to a 51-44 lead at intermission. Guard Steve deLaveaga scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half.
The second half was one long surge by CLU. Dave Jacques scored 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting, including nine free throws without a miss. He also had six rebounds.
Jacques performance and Mustang mistakes left Stem frustrated in the final minutes. He argued with the referees on calls of little significance as the Kingsmen lead neared 20 points.
In the end he could just lean back in his chair with his hands in his pockets and roll his eyes. "I'm still trying to figure this game out," he said. "We made mistakes. That's the mark of a young team. We just couldn't get into it.
"The whole thing is tough, but we'll make it. I don't know how, but we'll make it."
After fending off the Mustangs throughout the second half--keeping their lead around 10 points most of the way--the Kingsmen bombed and buried Master's down the stretch.
With 28 seconds left, Logsdon, who finished with 10 points, hit a three-point shot that gave CLU a 111-89 lead. Loren Rodrick added a free throw after he was fouled on the play and the Kingsmen romp had been punctuated.