BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Coming into Thursday night’s Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball matchup at the Icardo Center, a pair of impressive win streaks were intact, meaning one had to be snapped by the end of the night. CSU Bakersfield came into the game boasting 13 straight victories at home while WAC rival New Mexico State had the nation’s second-longest active win streak with 20 consecutive victories. The Roadrunners led for all but 25 seconds and dominated the Aggies en route to a 72-53 victory in front of another sellout crowd.
“One of our goals is to win the regular season and to do that we had to beat New Mexico State tonight,” said Rod Barnes, head coach of the ‘Runners. “We haven’t scored the ball well against them. We’ve always been able to defend them pretty well, but we haven’t scored well enough to win games like we did tonight. They made a run, like good teams do, but I thought we withstood it well.”
The ‘Runners went ahead by a score of 2-1 less than a minute into the game and never looked back. With 10:07 left in the first half, the Aggies cut CSUB’s lead to just one point, but a 14-4 run over the next six minutes helped the ‘Runners pull away. The run was spurred by a pair of three pointers from Damiyne Durham, a three from Dedrick Basile, and three points by Matt Smith. CSUB continued to push over the final four minutes and held a 36-18 lead at the half.
Bakersfield extended the lead to as many as 22 points at the start of the second half, but a surge by New Mexico State would remind 'Runner fans of this same matchup from a year ago. Last year, the Aggies came back from being 16 points down to push the game to double overtime and won an Ian Baker buzzer beater. Fast forward to 2017 and Baker scored all 19 of his points in the second half, helping the Aggies cut the lead to 10 points with 3:41 to go in the game.
Try as they might, the Aggies would not get any closer as CSUB’s stellar defense continued to contest shots and pull down rebounds while the ‘Runner offense came back to life. In the final 3:41, CSUB outscored NMSU 13-4 to seal the win with four points from redshirt senior Jaylin Airington and six from redshirt junior Brent Wrapp.
The ‘Runner defense troubled NMSU all night as CSUB allowed the Aggies to shoot only 29% from the field and a remarkable 12% (3-of-26) from beyond the arc in Thursday night’s game. Baker, who came into the game leading NMSU with 16 points per game, went 1-for-10 from three as the ‘Runner defense put a hand in front of just about every one of his shots. Jemerrio Jones added another double-double for NMSU with 11 points and 16 rebounds, but it was not enough to overcome the 'Runners.
CSUB was offensively led by Airington and Smith, who each contributed 17 points on the game. Smith added seven rebounds for a well-rounded game, but no one on the court was more effective on both ends on Thursday than Wrapp. CSUB’s point guard tallied 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and three steals while guiding the ‘Runners to a historic victory.
Durham added 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting while Basile had six points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals against the Aggies. Junior transfer Moataz Aly earned the first start of his CSUB career on Thursday and countered NMSU’s size well, tallying three blocks in 24 minutes played.
Before Thursday night, the ‘Runners had never defeated NMSU at home. In fact, CSUB’s only win in the previous 13 meetings was last March at the WAC Tournament. Now, Bakersfield can boast wins in two of the last three meetings and is beginning to assert itself as the dominant presence in this budding rivalry.
The ’Runners improved to 16-7 on the season and now have a 7-1 record in the WAC after winning in front of the fourth sellout crowd of the year. CSUB sits just a half game behind NMSU, which is 22-3 on the year and 8-1 in conference play.
Bakersfield’s men will stay at home this weekend for another WAC matchup at the Icardo Center. The ‘Runners will host UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, Feb. 11, with tip off scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased ahead of time by calling 654-BLUE.