BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—CSU Bakersfield opens the 2016-17 women’s basketball season with a pair of games this week. The season gets underway Sunday afternoon when the Roadrunners host Hawai’i at 1 p.m.

The Rainbow Wahine won the Big West Conference Tournament in 2016, advancing to the NCAA Tournament where Hawai’i dropped a 66-50 decision to No. 10 UCLA in the first round. UH is picked third in the preseason Big West Conference poll.

Briana Harris, the Rainbow Wahine’s lone senior, is the team’s returning scorer at 8.4 points per game. Hawai’i swept a pair of games from the Roadrunners a year ago. UH defeated the ‘Runners 74-60 during the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown before handing the ‘Runners a 65-55 defeat in Bakersfield. Hawai’i leads the all-time series 3-2. Hawai’i is at USC Friday night to begin the 2016-17 season.

The ‘Runners return to the court Tuesday night when CSUB hosts Southern Utah at 7 p.m. The Thunderbirds went 5-25 last season and were picked 10th (of 12) in the preseason Big Sky Conference poll.

Senior Jessica Richardson led the team in points (387) and rebounds (243). This is the first time CSUB and Southern Utah are playing women’s basketball against each other. Southern Utah hosts Antelope Valley College Saturday night to open the 2016-17 season.

CSU Bakersfield will feature a team comprised of a group of talented returning players and newcomers as the Roadrunners look to take the next step in the Western Athletic Conference.

The top two returning Roadrunner scorers are redshirt senior Erika Williams and sophomore Addi Walters. Williams reset her career high with 25 against UTRGV Feb. 20 as she sank a career high seven three-pointers (in a career high 11 three-point attempts). She charted a career high 10 rebounds in a career high 49 minutes in the WAC Tournament semifinals Mar. 11. Williams averaged 10.0 points per game a year ago.

Walters was named 2016 WAC Freshman of the Year. The 5-9 guard reset the school record for most made three-pointers in a game with nine against Seattle U, scoring 33 points. She was named WAC Player of the Week for her efforts against the Redhawks. Walters reset the CSUB Division I school record for most three-pointers in a season (77). She averaged 9.7 points per game.

Sophomore Alexxus Gilbert has the inside track to replace the now graduated Alyssa Shannon as the Roadrunner point guard. Gilbert averaged 4.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in 29 games a year ago. She was third on the team in assists with 29.

Senior Brittany Sims and redshirt junior Jazmyne Bartee will look take over at center after the school’s all-time leading rebounder, Batabe Zempare, graduated. Sims averaged 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 rebounds coming off the bench last season. Bartee sat out last season after transferring to CSUB from UNLV. Bartee scored 23 points in 22 games for the Rebels as a sophomore.

Juniors Airica Carmon and Tylinn Carter will look to take on expanded roles. Carmon scored a career high 13 points in only nine minutes against Arizona State during last season’s Hawai’i trip. Carmon scored 48 points in 26 appearances in 2015-16. Carterl, a Delaware State transfer, scored season best 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting at then No. 24 UCLA Dec. 5. She averaged 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 29 games played. Sophomore Jerice Fears is expected to continue in their roles in the front court. Fears is an undersized forward at 5-9, but she is one of the hardest workers on the team.

Leading the newcomers are a pair of transfers in guards Alize’ Lofton and Aja Williams. Both players signed with CSU Bakersfield out of high school, but elected to head through the junior college route to get back to Bakersfield. Lofton averaged 9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game in leading Mt. SAC College to its seventh CCCAA State Championships during the 2015-16 season. She scored 21 points in the 57-55 Mt. SAC victory over East LA College in the CCCAA finals and was named to the All-Tournament team. Lofton was named first team All-Conference and second team CCCAA All-State (South Region).

Willams was selected third team NJCAA All-American for Holmes CC as a sophomore after averaging 18.5 points (22nd in NJCAA Division I), 6.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game for Holmes CC. She played in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College All-Star Game after being named All-Region and first team All-State. Williams was named first team All-State by the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College as a freshman after averaging 18 points (29th in NJCAA Division I) and 5.2 rebounds per game. She scored 932 points in two seasons at Holmes.

Freshmen Daije Harris, Dalis Jones, and Kate Tokuhara join the squad and look to gain playing time in the backcourt. Harris is a 2016 graduate of Centennial High School in Corona, Calif and was selected league MVP, first team All-League, first team All-CIF, first team All-Southern Section, and first team All-Area as a senior.

Jones graduated from Norco High School last Spring after being named All-League as a junior and earning team MVP honors. She holds the school record for most steals in a season. Tokuhara comes to CSUB from Bishop Alemany High School where she was named first team All-League and honorable mention All-CIF (Open Division) as a junior. Tokuhara was selected to the 2015 Los Angeles Daily News All-Area team.

~www.GoRunners.com~