By Esteban Ramirez
The building was deafening with over 15,000 Oklahoma Sooners fans and senior guard NCAA player of the year candidate Buddy Hield was hitting shot after shot but 15-seeded CSU Bakersfield wasn’t going away.
For 36 minutes of the game, millions of people witnessed the Roadrunners hanging around with second-seeded Oklahoma and Hield.
This was a big step in the right direction for CSUB and even showed on the big stage that they could hang with one of the best teams in the nation.
“We’re just a team that’s never going to go away, and I feel like the guys on our team just wouldn’t give up and we wouldn’t roll over,” said CSUB senior forward Kevin Mays. “I felt like we really believed that we would win that game.”
CSUB kept showing that it wasn’t going to go away easily and that Oklahoma would need to play hard every minute of that game.
CSUB continuously cut into the lead in the second half and even took a brief 46-45 lead with 14:27 left in the game, but Oklahoma responded by going on a 13-2 run to take a 58-48 lead with 11:25 left.
“They’re a team that wouldn’t go away,” said Hield. “They just kept fighting and we respect that.”
Every time the Roadrunners put a scare in the Sooners, Hield came to the rescue for Oklahoma. He scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half.
He showed his whole repertoire from step backs, blow-byes and well-contested shots but CSUB just didn’t go away.
Any time the Sooners went on a run, the Roadrunners responded with a big run of their own. It accentuated the growth of the program and that they were ready for the big stage and they weren’t going to quit with the bright lights of March Madness shining down on them.
CSUB even cut the lead to 69-65 with 4:18 left but Oklahoma ended the game on a 13-3 run.
But despite the result, the Roadrunners have definitely taken another step in the right direction.
“Hopefully we can do the same thing next year and carry on the legacy that we started,” said junior guard Dedrick Basile.
Mays added that things are only going to get better for CSUB from this point forward.
“I’m just excited to see what the future holds for the city of Bakersfield and this team,” Mays said. “They’ve got a great team coming back. I’m just happy to be a part of the foundation of it.”
Now, the next step for CSUB is to find consistency and try to repeat this moving forward.
This did show the world who exactly is CSUB and even scared quite a few Sooners fans in the process. A performance like this can lead to more recruits and greater exposure for the school. It was another important step in the right direction — to have CSUB make the NCAA tournament and have a good showing against a top team with the whole nation watching.