Cal State Bakersfield finished on Thursday night.
The Roadrunners ended their regular-season struggle against Western Athletic Conference power New Mexico State for a 72-53 victory that put CSUB into a first-place tie for the WAC lead with the Aggies.
With 17 points each from Matt Smith and Jaylin Arrington, the Roadrunners took a lead with 18:38 left in the first half and never looked back against the Aggies, who CSUB last defeated in the WAC Tournament title game last season. The battles with the Aggies have often featured an offensive collapse by the Roadrunners, but not on Thursday night in front of a standing-room only crowd at the Icardo Center.
“Midway through the second half I thought it turned into (New Mexico State’s) game, and I thought our guys showed a lot of character closing out the game,” said CSUB coach Rod Barnes, whose team improved to 7-1 in the WAC and 16-7 overall.
Great sequence here by @CSUBAthletics in closing minute of 1st half with impressive 36-18 lead over New Mexico State at halftime pic.twitter.com/hh5JbZvaIa
— Louis Amestoy (@LouisAmestoy) February 10, 2017
CSUB’s defense shutdown New Mexico State’s leading scorers Ian Baker and Braxton Huggins. Baker finished with 19 points but was just four-of-20 from the field. Huggins, a graduate of Bakersfield’s Mira Monte High School, was held to just five points.
The Roadrunners blew the game open during a 22-4 run during the final nine minutes of the first half. One of the key sparks was Baylor transfer Damiyne Durham who scored 13 points in the first half to lead the Roadrunners.
In past games against the Aggies, CSUB squandered big leads, including last year’s regular season double overtime loss at the Icardo Center, but on this night the Roadrunners calmly wore down New Mexico State.
“When we had the lead we wanted to stay confident and attacking, but at the same time use the clock a little bit,” said guard Brent Wrapp, who scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had eight assists in 33 minutes.
By keeping New Mexico State’s top scorers in check, the Roadrunners were able to force nine steals and six blocked shots, while holding the Aggies to just 29.3 percent shooting from the field.