by Josh Bennett
The CSUB men’s basketball team easily defeated the UC Merced Bobcats by the score of 97-54 Monday at the Icardo Center. Senior guard Matt Ratto led the team with 15 points, all off of three-point shots, off the bench.
The `Runners (1-1) easily dominated the Bobcats defensively and in the paint throughout the game, outscoring Merced 50-12 in the paint, and outrebounding them 49-22. Redshirt senior guard Brandon Barnes had 13 of those rebounds, which made up for his low scoring night.
Redshirt senior point guard Issiah Grayson struggled from the field, but was able to still lead his team on the court, and attribute 7 assists.
“If I’m not scoring, or if Brandon [Barnes] is not scoring, I try to pick up on something else,” said Grayson. “I had 7 assists, so when I saw that my shot was not falling, I had to get somebody else’s shot falling, and it worked to my favor.”
“He’s a good point guard. He’s a team guy. There’s a comfort level with him. Whenever you got a guy on the floor that you got confidence in, who’s your floor leader, it just makes your life easier as a coach,” said Head Coach Rod Barnes.
CSUB opened the game with a vast array of presses and double teams, which limited the Bobcats offensively and allowed the `Runners to open the game up early.
CSUB was able to connect with a couple of early threes, but with redshirt junior center Abdul Ahmed leading the dominance in the paint, with 12 points and 6 rebounds, the `Runners got 22 second chance points which helped extend the lead, with their 57.6% field goal percentage.
The `Runners opened the second half just as dominant as the first half.
With a 25-5 run within the first 8 minutes of the second half, and a Merced scoring drought that lasted over 5 minutes, CSUB was able to keep the game in hand for the win.
“We had a little bit of fire out there tonight. We had something to prove,” said Grayson on the team playing off the loss to Washington State.
Ratto was able to play some minutes because of the large lead, and took advantage by heating up from the three-point line to get his 15 points. 3 other players also scored in double figures.
“We have a deep team. Matt Ratto came off the bench and gave us a lift. He’s been playing well and practicing well, it’s great to see him in the game and make 5 threes,” said Brandon Barnes. “We have a lot of guns, and we are trying to prove to people that any given night somebody can go off. That’s what makes us dangerous.”
“[Ratto} is one of those guys. If he gets going, he can keep it going. I’m happy that our guys recognized he was shooting the ball well, and they decided to share the ball with him,” said Coach Barnes.
Free-throw shooting was a big concern for the `Runners, shooting poorly against Washington State, but the team was able to improve on it tonight.
“Missing 17 free-throws [wasn’t] something we intended to do [against Washington State]. We had to put in our extra work,” said Ahmed.
“We had to get in the gym. We got in there and shot a lot of free-throws, and it really paid off for us tonight,” said Grayson.
The `Runners continue their home stand against Sacramento State on Wednesday. The team looks to make a statement by avenging a loss last year.
“We owe them one. We expect them to come in with a lot of confidence. They are probably not going to respect us because they beat us almost by 20 points,” said Brandon Barnes.
“It’s going to be a tough game for us. They have a great backcourt, and we have our work cut out for us. We’ll be ready for a fight and a battle, because that’s what it’s going to be,” said Coach Barnes.