By Peter Castillo
The magical Cinderella run has finally come to an end in Madison Square Garden.
The CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball team was defeated by Georgia Tech 76-61 in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals on Tuesday, March 28 in New York City.
“I just think [Georgia Tech] played well tonight,” said CSUB coach Rod Barnes. “We can’t take anything away from them. They have been playing well down the stretch like we were, and tonight was their game.”
Despite shooting 46 percent from the floor in the NIT coming into Tuesday night’s game, the eighth-seeded Roadrunners (25-10) could not get into a groove offensively as they shot only 35 percent from the floor on the evening.
“We’re an elite defensive team if you look at the numbers,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. “We really do a good job of defending without fouling.”
The Yellow Jackets (21-15) forced CSUB to commit 15 turnovers as well. CSUB never led in the game.
Georgia Tech freshman forward Josh Okogie paced the Yellow Jackets with 22 points and pulled down 9 rebounds.
Senior guard Dedrick Basile continued his hot shooting as he knocked down 5-of-9 from deep and finished with 18 points in his final collegiate game.
“My two years here have been fantastic,” said Basile. “I’m very pleased and blessed to be around the guys and the coaching staff for these two years.”
A three-pointer by Basile with less than 10 seconds left in the first half brought CSUB within seven.
However, Georgia Tech junior guard Tadric Jackson pushed the ball up court and buried a buzzer-beating three to give the Yellow Jackets a 10-point lead to close out the half.
A layup by freshman guard Justin Moore gave the Yellow Jackets a 63-44 lead with 7:51 to play. It was their largest lead of the game.
Redshirt-senior forward Jaylin Airington fouled out and finished with 12 points in his last game as a Roadrunner.
“I’m sad it had to come to an end tonight but I love these guys,” said Airington. “We’re just enjoying the moment and enjoying the process of the season.”
Redshirt-sophomore guard Damiyne Durham scored 10 points off the bench but only shot 4-of-17 from the floor, including 1-of-10 from three-point range.
Georgia Tech junior center Ben Lammers dominated the paint as he collected 15 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Redshirt-senior forward Matt Smith also fouled out in his penultimate game at CSUB. He finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds.
It was a season of firsts for the Roadrunners as they captured their first regular season Western Athletic Conference championship and the program’s first postseason victories at the Division I level.
“I think people realize who we are now,” said Barnes. “To win almost 50 games in two years, is something special. I think now on a national level, people are starting to realize we have a pretty good program here in Bakersfield.”
Georgia Tech will now move on to the NIT finals where it will take on the winner of the matchup between the University of Central Florida and Texas Christian University at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 30 at Madison Square Garden.
The game will be televised on ESPN.