PROVO, Utah- A slow start to the first half and a big halftime deficit were too much to overcome for the Roadrunners, despite an impressive second-half effort in an 81-71 loss at BYU Thursday night.

“We didn’t come out with the focus we needed against a really good team,” said head coach Rod Barnes. “We kind of got caught in what we haven’t been doing, we haven’t been guarding well.”

The Roadrunners (8-5)  started slow offensively, shooting just 27% from the field in the first half while BYU couldn’t miss on their home court converting 17-29 (59%) while also connecting on 6-13 from three-point range to build a 47-27 halftime lead. Nick Emery had the hottest hand for the Cougars (9-5) converting 4-6 first-half three-pointers.

“We got caught up early on some missed calls but we didn’t have the toughness we needed to have to play through it,” Barnes said. “After halftime we kind of settled in and got back to what we do and that’s why we were able to make a run, but they’re too good of a team to spot them 20 points and try to come back.”

The ‘Runners were just 1-8 in the first half from three-point range before Damiyne Durham made his first three as time expired. It would be an indicator of good things to come for Durham who paced CSUB with 22 points including 9-21 from the field and 4-13 from three-point range.

CSUB’s defense returned in the second half with a more aggressive approach which forced BYU into 10 second-half turnovers and allowed CSUB to hold the Cougars scoreless for extended periods of time while they chipped away at the lead. CSUB went on a 14-4 run after trailing by 23 points to cut the lead to 13 with just over 10 minutes to play.

The Roadrunners kept working on the BYU lead and then cut the deficit to nine points with 5:08 to play when James Suber tipped in a missed three-pointer. The lead would never get over 13 for the Cougars as they hit just one field goal in the final five minutes scoring 9 of their final 11 points from the free-throw line.

Offensively the ‘Runners shot 47% from the field in the second half and were 4-11 from three-point range. BYU was just 9-20 in the second half (45%) and 2-4 from three-point range. Emery paced the Cougars with 23 points, Yoeli Childs added 19.

Jaylin Airington scored 13 points for Bakersfield while Dedrick Basile once again scored in double digits adding 10 for the Roadrunners in the loss. CSUB outscored the Cougars in the paint 34-28 but were outrebounded 45-38 in the contest.

“I like our team effort in the second half the way we made a run to come back,” Barnes said. “We’re in a good place health-wise and eligibility-wise so we just have to get back and get to work, if you look at our five losses now we’ve lost to some really good teams.”

The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for CSUB who has two non-conference games remaining. They will play at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 7 P.M. and then at Dartmouth on Jan. 3 before opening conference play Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Icardo Center vs. Seattle U.