FORT COLLINS, Calif. – Another dominant first-half performance led CSU Bakersfield’s men’s basketball team to an 81-63 road victory against Colorado State in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament. Smothering defense and redshirt senior Jaylin Airington’s 19 points catalyzed the Roadrunners while three others scored in double digits in Monday night’s win, CSUB’s second NCAA postseason victory.
“The last two games have shown this group can be a special group,” said Head Coach Rod Barnes. “I have been telling them our defense is good enough to play against anyone in the country. Our guys are playing with a lot of enthusiasm. We’re a pretty tough out for people and we’re excited to be moving on.”
Coach Barnes also commented on his team’s next stop in the NIT Tournament: “We’re going to go out and put a defensive plan together and let our guys shoot the basketball. This team loves to win and figures out ways to win. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
As they have often this season, the ‘Runners jumped out to an early lead on the Rams. At the first media timeout, CSUB sprinted to a 10-2 advantage, but the Rams would fight back with a 10-0 run of their own to draw within one point at 20-19. That would be the closest Colorado State would get to the ‘Runners for the rest of the game as CSUB surged ahead.
The ‘Runners relied on the three-pointer early on, just as they did against Cal in the first round of the NIT. CSUB nailed eight of its first 10 shots from beyond the arc as sharpshooting and defense helped the ‘Runners maintain their advantage.
CSUB rebuilt its lead to 31-23 with 7:30 to go in the first half after redshirt sophomore Damiyne Durham nailed his third three-pointer of the half. The ‘Runners went on to extend their lead all the way into halftime as CSUB rode an 11-2 run into the locker room and led 52-32 at the break.
Scoring from all over in the first half for the 'Runners as Airington heated up for 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Durham sank 4-of-5 three-pointers for 12 points while senior Dedrick Basile chipped in 10 points in the opening period.
Pace slowed to a crawl in the opening 10 minutes of the second half thanks, in part, to tight calls from the referees. The ‘Runners matched the pace and eventually extended their lead to as many as 26 points with 6:04 remaining in the period. Although the ‘Runners were outscored by Colorado State in the second half, 31-29, CSUB cruised to the win, 81-63.
Two of the Rams’ top three scorers, Gian Clavell and Prentiss Nixon, had solid performances for CSU as the pair scored almost 60% of the team’s points. Clavell, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, scored 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field while Nixon added 15 points on 5-of-17. No other Ram scored more than seven points in Fort Collins on Monday as the ‘Runner defense, one of the best in the nation, swarmed its opponents.
As a team, CSUB forced 17 turnovers and recorded 10 steals against the Rams. The ‘Runners held CSU to just 35% shooting from the field on the night and just 23% from behind the three-point line. On the other side of the court, CSUB was highly efficient, converting on nearly 50% of its field goals (28-of-58) and almost 60% of its three-pointers (11-of-19).
Airington’s 19 points were a team best and the most for the native of East Chicago, Ind. since he scored 22 against Utah Valley in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal. The redshirt senior also had three assists and three steals in the game while Basile, a senior from Houston, Texas, added 17 points and four assists for the ‘Runners.
Junior Shon Briggs chipped in an all-around game with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists on Monday. Durham finished the game with 12 points while Colorado native Brent Wrapp had eight points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals in front of friends and family.
After UT Arlington (27-8) defeated Akron on Monday, the Roadrunners’ victory against Colorado State set up an NIT quarterfinal matchup scheduled for Mar. 22 at 6 p.m. (PT). With UTA holding the higher seed (6), the game is expected to be held in Texas on Wednesday.