CHICAGO – An outstanding defensive effort and a pair of 20-point scorers in redshirt seniors Matt Smith and Jaylin Airington helped CSU Bakersfield’s men’s basketball team earn a convincing, 75-59 road victory over Chicago State on Thursday.
Smith, a native of Jackson, Tenn., tied his career high with 23 points while recording his first double-double of the season with 12 rebounds. Airington snuck in 20 points of his own while adding six rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the Roadrunners’ Western Athletic Conference victory over the Cougars.
Smith’s and Airington’s contributions aided the ‘Runners, but defense was and continues to be the name of the game for CSUB. Bakersfield came into the game allowing opponents to score just 64.5 points per game and held Chicago State well below that average with 59 points at the Jones Convocation Center. The ’Runner defense added 11 steals and held the Cougar’s top scorer, Fred Sims, Jr., to a manageable 15 points. Trayvon Palmer registered another double-double for Chicago State with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but CSUB came away with the all-important road win.
The ‘Runners came out of the gate with ambition as CSUB jumped out to a six-point lead in the first eight minutes. Bakersfield would then extend the lead to nine points heading into halftime. Behind 11 points and seven rebounds from Smith, the ‘Runners went into the locker room with a 38-29 advantage.
In the second half, CSUB extended its lead to 14 points at the 17:19 mark, but the Cougars began to claw their way back in. Chicago State went on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes to cut the lead to just four at 44-40. The ‘Runners would buckle down on defense and Chicago State never got that close again. CSUB went on a 23-10 run over the next 10 minutes to earn a 17-point lead, their largest of the game.
Chicago State (6-17, 1-5 WAC) went on to cut the CSUB lead back down to 11 points with 2:41 left, but the ‘Runners finished off the Cougars to earn their fourth WAC victory of the season. With the win, CSUB improved to 13-7 on the year and 4-1 in conference play. With Grand Canyon losing at UMKC on Thursday night, the ‘Runners moved into sole possession of second place in the conference standings, just one game behind New Mexico State.
Redshirt sophomore Damiyne Durham got back to being an offensive weapon for the ‘Runners, draining a pair of three-pointers on the way to 11 points. Durham also added three assists and three steals on the night while redshirt junior Brent Wrapp added three assists and five boards for CSUB.
The ‘Runners struggled from behind the arc, converting on just 3-of-18 (.167) three-pointers in Chicago. The deep ball was not falling, but Head Coach Rod Barnes recognized it early and told his team to pound the paint. Smith and the rest of the ‘Runners did just that, using precision passing to earn easy layups and dunks while outscoring the Cougars 38-12 in the paint.
CSU Bakersfield will now head to Kansas City, Mo. to meet UMKC in another WAC road game on Saturday. The two teams will meet for a 7 p.m. (CT) tip off in Municipal Auditorium as the ‘Runners will look to slow the Kangaroos on their home court. Saturday’s game will be live streamed via UMKC TV while fans can listen in on the radio on Newstalk 1180 AM/96.1 FM KERN.