TUCSON, Ariz.- The 10th-ranked Arizona Wildcats needed a late second-half run after the CSUB Roadrunners refused to go away quietly as the Wildcats survived their home opener with a 78-66 win over the Roadrunners Tuesday night.
“We showed a lot of character tonight, that’s something that doesn’t surprise me,” said CSUB head coach Rod Barnes. “Unfortunately we had a stretch there when we didn’t play well.”
The ‘Runners led early but a 17-2 run by the Wildcats gave them the lead for good midway through the first half to take a 20-12 lead. The Wildcats scored four three-pointers during that stretch including three from Rawle Alkins. CSUB responded with their own 7-0 run to trail 20-19 with 8:11 left. The Wildcats however would outscore CSUB 24-5 in the remainder of the half, holding CSUB scoreless in the final four minutes to lead 44-26 at the break.
The Roadrunners trailed by as many as 21 in the second half but at the 15:24 mark fortunes changed. The ‘Runners went on a 17-0 run holding the Wildcats scoreless for over five minutes to pull within four points with just over nine minutes remaining.
“In the first half we tried to play more on the perimeter but in the second half we got to the basket, kind of got them in some foul trouble and put ourselves in a good position,” said CSUB head coach Rod Barnes. “We let it get away from us, we turned the ball over a couple of times missed a couple open shots but proud of our guys and the effort that they showed.”
At that point the game turned controversial. Following a flagrant foul on Taze Moore, a scrum and a tangle of bodies drew players under the basket. Alkins appeared to come off the Arizona bench to join the fracas. The officials could not determine if he came off the bench on the video replay. Instead of being ejected, he was allowed to stay in the game.
“It’s unbelievable for that situation to happen, then to say they couldn’t see it on the film,” Barnes said. “To have a kid come off the bench was unbelievable but we have to move on, you’re not going to get those kinds of calls, they’re 10th in the country and on their heels and we made a run, it’s part of it.”
That non-ejection sparked Arizona to scored 12 of the next 14 points to build a double-digit lead which they would hold until CSUB cut it to 71-64 with 1:25 remaining. Despite time running out on the Roadrunners, Jaylin Airington delivered a career-high performance of 31 points on 10-25 from the field, 4-10 from three-point range and 7-8 from the free-throw line. It was the second-most points scored by a Roadrunner at the Division I level behind 33 scored by Isaiah Grayson in 2014.
CSUB was much stronger offensively in the second half shooting 14-28 from the field and 5-10 from three-point range. They had trouble containing the seven-foot-tall Lauri Markkanen who led Arizona with 26 points on 8-11 shooting, 1-3 from three-point range and 9-9 from the free-throw line. Markkanen also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. James Suber led CSUB on the glass with 10 boards.
CSUB returns home for a pair of marquee homes games against local rivals starting with UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night at 7 P.M. The ‘Runners then host Fresno State on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at the Icardo Center.
“Sometimes you play these kinds of games and you play well so you don’t want to come back and have a letdown,” Barnes said. “We have to do a great job over the next few days because Santa Barbara has a great program, so we have a lot of work between now and then but we found out some good things, some guys really played well and we’ll go back, go to work and look forward to the next game.”