BAKERSFIELD, Calif.,-- The Roadrunners ring in the new year with optimism as they put a month of December full of road losses in the rear view and focus on the second of their six-game home stand as they take on New Mexico State tonight at the Icardo Center. Given the fact that 10 of CSUB's 14 games in the 2011 portion of their schedule were on the road, the .500 Roadrunners are no doubt excited about this challenging stretch of home contests that begins 2012 starting with the Aggies Monday night. This will mark just the second-ever meeting between these two programs and the first at the Division I level with New Mexico State beating the Roadrunners 88-64 in Las Cruces back in 1985. This is the first of two meetings this season between the two teams, as the Aggies will host CSUB on Feb. 1, 2012.
New Mexico State enters with a 9-5 record having won four of their last five games with their lone loss coming against rival New Mexico on Dec. 28 89-69. Their most recent stretch including home wins over Western New Mexico, Southern, McNeese State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Their trip to Bakersfield marks the first road game since a 73-69 loss at UTEP on Dec. 11, the Aggies are 2-2 on the road this season.
The makeup of this Aggies team will look a little different when the hit the floor Monday night against the Roadrunners as the team's second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Christian Kabongo has been granted his release and will transfer out of the Aggies program. Kabongo, who had started in 10 of the 11 games he played in this season was averaging 14.6 ppg and 3.4 rpg while shooting .376 from the field. Despite his loss, the Aggies have plenty of offensive firepower coming into Bakersfield led by senior forward Wendell McKines who's averaging 18.4 ppg while shooting .444 from the field and .389 from three-point range. He's also pulling down a team-high 10.7 rpg for a Aggies team that rebounds well and are ranked 21st in the NCAA in rebounding margin with 40.4 per game to 33.2 for opponents.
CSUB is led by junior guard Issiah Grayson who's averaging 11.9 ppg while fellow junior guard Stephon Carter has played arguably his best two games recently for the Roadrunners scoring 17 points against Texas Tech on Dec. 27 and putting up 16 against Pomona-Pitzer the last time out on Dec. 30. Carter is now second on the team in scoring with 9.9 ppg and second in rebounding as well with 4.4 rpg for the Roadrunners.
CSUB is 4-0 at home this season and will be playing in their first of three games this week. They'll also host UNLV (#17, ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll) Thursday night at 7 P.M. at Rabobank Arena and Texas Pan-American on Saturday January 7th back on campus at the Icardo Center at 7 P.M.