BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – A strong offensive display in the first half and a buckled down defensive effort in the second half led CSU Bakersfield’s men’s basketball team to a 68-65 victory over Utah Valley in Saturday’s home game. The Roadrunners led for all but 18 seconds in the contest and forced a potent Wolverine offense to shoot poorly en route to the victory in front of another sellout crowd at the Icardo Center.
“We were thankful for the great crowd that we had tonight,” said CSUB's Head Coach, Rod Barnes. “Their enthusiasm really helped us. Utah Valley is a good basketball team and they came here to win. When it got to the end, we did what we always do. Defense came through for us in the second half. It was a great team effort for us.”
The game turned out to be a tale of two halves as the ‘Runners played more to the style of Utah Valley in the first period. Both teams came out of the gate firing and, while the ‘Runners were able to hold on for a 41-36 halftime lead, the pace of play favored the Wolverines. UVU came into the contest averaging nearly 80 points a game and the ‘Runners needed to slow play down to keep the Wolverine offense at bay.
Defense was the name of the game in the second half as the ‘Runners limited UVU to just 29 points. The Wolverines were able to claw their way back into the game, cutting the CSUB lead to just one point at 61-60 with 4:02 left on the clock. A minute later, a UVU three pointer would cut the 'Runner lead back to just one and a pair of free throws with 55 seconds remaining did the same.
Every time the Wolverines got within one point in the waning minutes, one of the ‘Runners came up with a big play to extend the lead. Redshirt senior Jaylin Airington sank a pair of crucial free throws and fellow redshirt senior Matt Smith’s putback with 1:13 to go helped the ‘Runners keep the lead. Leading by just one point, UVU pulled down a rebound on a missed shot, but Smith forced a jump ball to earn possession back for the ‘Runners with 28 seconds remaining.
Two more good free throws by Airington with 20 seconds left gave the ‘Runners a three-point lead and CSUB’s defense forced UVU to take two desperate attempts at a game-tying shot. Neither shot fell and the ‘Runner defense held on for an important Western Athletic Conference victory.
With the win on Saturday night, the ‘Runners improved to 12-7 overall and 3-1 in the WAC as CSUB remained tied for second in the league standings. The Wolverines relied on the deep ball, but pressure defense resulted in contested shots all night long and only 28.1% three-point shooting (9-of-32) for Utah Valley. The ‘Runners opted for a more conservative approach and shot 44% (22-of-50) from the field in the win.
CSUB had four scorers in double digits, including a game-high 13 points from senior Dedrick Basile. The native of Houston, Texas added five assists while redshirt junior Brent Wrapp had a game-high six assists. Smith contributed 12 points and nine rebounds while Airington added 12 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes. Redshirt junior Fallou Ndoye earned his first start for the ‘Runners and had 11 points in 24 minutes.
After the game, Barnes also talked about next week’s trip to face Chicago State: “They are going to be ready. They are going to play hard and fight us. All of the WAC teams are improved. We have a target on our backs because we won and made it to the NCAA Tournament. I thought our guys responded tonight and I’m looking forward to going on the road.”
The ‘Runners will hit the road for a pair of WAC games next week. CSUB will head to Illinois to play Chicago State Thursday, Jan. 26, before wrapping up the two-game road trip at UMKC on Saturday, Jan. 28. Both games can be heard on radio via Newstalk 1180/96.1 FM KERN, while Saturday night’s game will be streamed live via UMKC TV.