EDINBURG, Texas – A career game of 23 points and nine rebounds by redshirt senior Matt Smith helped the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners earn a hard-fought road victory over UT Rio Grande Valley Thursday night. CSUB’s seniors led the way in an 88-81 offensive battle against the Western Athletic Conference’s top scoring team.
“I told the guys, if we come to play, if we get our upperclassmen going, we can come away with the win,” said Head Coach Rod Barnes after the victory in Texas. “It’s good for guys like Matt to get going with a big game tonight, but I expect it from him. He did a great job of getting inside and I was really impressed.”
The ‘Runners came away with the win, but stuttered in the opening 10 minutes as UTRGV jumped out to a seven-point lead. Momentum then swung CSUB’s way as the ‘Runners went on a 27-9 run over the final 10:43 to take an 11-point lead into halftime. Dedrick Basile’s 15 first-half points led the ‘Runners to their 42-31 advantage going into the break.
Basile was quiet in the second half, scoring four points as the Vaqueros surged for a comeback effort. Mike Hoffman’s team-high 21 points and Nick Dixon’s 20 points helped UTRGV outscore CSUB 50-46 in the second period. With 6:23 to play, the Vaqueros tied the game for the 10th time at 71-71 before taking a one-point lead on Xavier McDaniel Jr.’s pair of free throws.
After UTRGV took its final lead, the ‘Runner defense buckled down and CSUB used a 10-0 run to lock the game up. Smith scored four straight points, Basile added a layup, and Shon Briggs scored four points as well to put the ‘Runners ahead 81-72. CSUB held on to earn the win by a score of 88-81 as Bakersfield took its third-straight victory and improved to 11-6 (2-0 WAC) on the year.
Smith dominated the inside game against the Vaqueros as the ‘Runners outscored UTRGV 50-18 in the paint. The redshirt senior also added nine rebounds, two blocks, and an assist in Smith’s career game to date. The native of Jackson, Tenn. raised his career high in points from 17 to 23 on Thursday and did so efficiently, knocking down 7-of-10 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
CSUB’s scoring was mainly concentrated in three student-athletes as Basile’s 19 and Airington’s 18 were close behind Smith. Basile added five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks against UTRGV while Airington had a strong all-around game as well with seven boards and five assists. Fellow senior Justin Pride provided great ball security from the point for the ‘Runners and added eight points, four rebounds, and five assists.
“New Mexico State is going to be a tough matchup,” Barnes said about CSUB's next opponent. “We’ll take this win tonight, but we'll have to be ready to go on Saturday. Our senior leaders did a great job tonight and I expect them to lead us again in New Mexico.”
The Roadrunners will move over one state for their Saturday matchup against New Mexico State. The Aggies posted a solid win against Grand Canyon Thursday night and will be waiting to defend a 16-game win streak when CSUB comes to town. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (MST) on Jan. 14 in Las Cruces, N.M.