It was a stirring run for the CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball team, but on Tuesday night the magic ran out for the Roadrunners.
With superior size and offensive weapons, Georgia Tech eased past the Roadrunner in the National Invitational Tournament semifinals 76-61 at Madison Square Garden, but Yellowjackets coach Josh Pastner said it was never easy.
“They are very well coached by coach (Rod Barnes),” said Pastner, whose team advances to Thursday night’s title game against Texas Christian. “They play hard and they’re tough.”
The Yellowjackets got a game-high 22 points from freshman Josh Okogie and Georgia Tech’s defense limited the Roadrunners to just 35 percent shooting on the night, forced 15 turnovers and presented plenty of problems inside for Bakersfield.
“(Georgia Tech) did a really good job tonight and they caused us a lot of problems,” Barnes said during the postgame press conference.
From the start, CSUB faced a team that presented several problems, including size. The Yellowjackets got 15 points from 6-foot-10 junior Ben Lammers, who also had a game-high 11 rebounds, and from 6-foot-9 senior Quinton Stephens, who added 12 points and nine rebounds.
It also helped that the Yellowjackets committed just seven turnovers on the night, and never seemed to be too rattled by CSUB’s defense.
“We definitely had great preparation prior to this game we had a couple of good practices,” Okogie said.
Stephens, echoing Okogie, said the Roadrunners presented plenty of preparation problems for the Yellowjackets, who play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think the coaches really prepared us and let us know they were going to come after us,” Stephens said. “We went from stretching to breaking the press break and that’s not something we usually do.”
Not only did the Roadrunners struggle offensively, they also ran into foul trouble early. Airington, one of the team’s senior leaders, had three fouls early in the second half and had to sit for long stretches. Airington and Matt Smith fouled out late in the game.
“I think they just played well tonight,” Barnes said of Georgia Tech. “They spread us out. They took care of the basketball. We had some plays and there were a lot of tips we didn’t get to tonight.”
Georgia Tech was also able to answer nearly every CSUB scoring possession during the game.
For the Roadrunners, along with Barnes, the loss means the end of a productive era of players who helped shape the program’s Division I future, especially Dedrick Basile, who scored a team-high 18 points, and Airington. The Roadrunners will lose Basile, Airington, Justin Pride and Smith.
“This has been a great run for our team and the program,” Basile said. “I mean this was a great opportunity for us and we just came up short.”
Barnes said of his seniors: “I’m proud of our seniors and what they have done for our program, for the university and the city of Bakersfield.”
With the loss the Roadrunners finish the season 25-10.