BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – CSU Bakersfield’s men’s basketball team used swarming defense to earn a 75-53 victory over UT Rio Grande Valley at the Icardo Center Saturday night. The Roadrunners also took over the top spot in the Western Athletic Conference standings after New Mexico State fell on the road at Grand Canyon.

“I’m really proud of our team,” said Rod Barnes, Head Coach of the ‘Runners. “I thought our guys came back and played really well on the defensive end as we have been recently. Sometimes, when you play a big game like we did against New Mexico State [on Thursday], it takes so much out of you. I thought our guys were really strong and showed a lot of character today.”

Coach Barnes also commented on the ‘Runners taking first place in the conference: “We’re not concerned so much with other people. We control our own destiny. That’s what I told our guys in the beginning. We’re going to take care of business. We’re in first place and we’re going to protect that.”

UTRGV’s potent offense, which came into the game averaging 78.7 points per game, played neck and neck with the ‘Runners for the first 10 minutes of the first half. A 17-3 run by CSUB to close out the second half helped the ‘Runners take a 40-24 lead into the locker room.

The Vaqueros opened the second half with an 8-2 run before the ‘Runner defense got back to its swarming ways. CSUB recorded seven of its 12 steals in the second period while forcing nine UTRGV turnovers.

As was the case all night, the ’Runner offense moved efficiently as seven players scored four or more points in the second half. CSUB extended its lead to as many as 24 points midway through the second half. Senior Justin Pride’s eight second-half points led the ‘Runners.

Redshirt sophomore Damiyne Durham led all scorers in the game with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Three other ‘Runners scored in double digits including redshirt senior Matt Smith, who registered another double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior Shon Briggs came off the bench to score 12 points and came up one rebound short of a double-double on Thursday night. Senior Dedrick Basile tallied a game-high five assists while freshman Taze Moore and Durham both had four steals in the game.

On the game, CSUB’s defense held UTRGV to just 28% shooting from the field and only 13% from beyond the three-point line. On the other side of the court, CSUB converted on 47% of its shots from the field, but struggled from beyond the arc (3-of-13).

With the win, CSU Bakersfield improved to 17-7 on the year and 8-1 in the WAC. NMSU lost to GCU, so the ‘Runners gained the lead in the WAC standings as the Aggies are now 8-2 in conference play. This is the first time since CSUB joined the WAC in 2013-14 that the ‘Runners have had the lead this late in the season.

The Roadrunners will travel next week for their final road trip of the regular season. CSUB is scheduled to play at Utah Valley, Feb. 16, before wrapping up the trip at Seattle U, Feb. 18. Both games next week will be live streamed via the WAC Digital Network while fans can also tune in to Newstalk 1180 AM/96.1 FM KERN for radio coverage.