Roadrunners roll past Bethesda in home opener, 94-43

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David Dennis / CSUB Athletics CSUB junior Travis Henson runs up the floor in Monday’s season-opening 94-43 victory over Bethesda at the Icardo Center. Henson made seven 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 21 points for the Roadrunners.

Ron Stapp, Sports editor

It took them a little while to get warmed up, but once the Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball team turned up the heat, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Junior forward Travis Henson made seven 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 21 points off the bench to help compliment the Roadrunners’ stifling defensive pressure in a 94-43 victory over Bethesda in Monday’s home opener at the Icardo Center.

“I thought we did a better job in the second half, but we still have a lot of work,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said. “You can see we have a lot of depth. I’m running through our roster still trying to get the right combination. Hopefully I’ll get the best group of guys out there. I like our team. They’re extremely hard workers.” 

After heating up late in the first half from long range, Henson continued his impressive shooting in the second half, making three straight 3-pointers during one stretch, the final of which came on a step-back 25-footer that gave the Roadrunners an 80-34 lead with 9:24 to play. He finished 7 for 10 from beyond the arc and added six rebounds and two steals in just 13 minutes of action.

“What Travis did tonight, that didn’t surprise us,” Barnes said. “That’s what he’s been doing in practice … He’s a very talented player. He’s a very coachable kid and when he gets like that he’s really good.”

But in no way was it one man effort. Ten different Roadrunners scored, with seniors De’Monte Buckingham, Justin Edler-Davis, Justin McCall, Shawn Stith and Taze Moore all enjoying their moments.

Buckingham finished with a double-double, with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Edler-Davis was an efficient 6 for 8 from the field for 12 points.

Edler-Davis made back-to-back jumpers early in the second half and added another just before a Buckingham 3-pointer that gave CSUB a 40-point lead 69-29 with 11:36 to play.

The scoring outburst was a far cry from the ’Runners’ 53-47 loss to Santa Clara in their season opener on Friday. CSUB eclipsed its point total in the first half Monday, cruising to a 48-23 halftime lead.

“That definitely left a bad taste in our mouth because we felt like we should have won that game,” said Buckingham of the season opener. “We missed a lot of shots that we normally make, so it was just time to get back into the gym and work on those shots. And we came out tonight and my teammates hit those shots, so I feel like we’re on the right track.”

With the game in hand, the ’Runners cleared its bench, with all 12 players taking the floor.

“It’s always good to come out with a W,” said McCall, who had nine points, six rebounds and two steals. “Aside from that, I thought we played hard. And that’s the No. 1 thing that we have to go out and do every night. I also thought we played smarter than we did last game.”

Taking the floor was perhaps the biggest accomplishment for CSUB, considering the number of college basketball games that have been canceled in the first two weeks of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m just so thankful that we made it to this day,” Barnes said. “Obviously these are some very difficult and trying times. You have mixed emotions with so many people dealing with so many different things and issues of life. And we get a chance to continue to play this game that we love to play and coach and compete. So I’m thankful and grateful and my heart goes out to those that are dealing with this serious virus we have here in our world today.”

CSUB started out slow against the Flames, who entered the game having given up an average of 115 points per game in four preseason exhibitions against NCAA Division I opponents.

Leading just 16-15 midway through the first half, CSUB (1-1) began to pull away on the strength of a 20-1 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Henson to build the ’Runners’ lead to 36-16 with 5:14 left in the first half.

CSUB added to its lead when Henson hit consecutive 3’s, and when Moore scored on a scoop shot, the Roadrunners finished the first half with a 48-23 advantage.

“I think we just had to get into a flow,” McCall said. “We just decided that we were going to lockdown defensively and help each other out with helpside defense and things like that. We made sure we were staying unselfish and sharing the ball. The ball wasn’t sticking in anybody’s hands. And then once we really locked down on defense and started stringing stops together … and the score just kept growing.”

Stith had nine points, Perry added five points, six assists and three steals, and Moore finished with six points and four assists for CSUB, which plays at Arizona on Wednesday before returning home to play Idaho at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Steve Wooten had a game-high 26 points for Bethesda.

“I feel like we finally brought out that intensity against the other team,” Buckingham said. “Coach is always telling us if we get the ball on the defensive end, when we transition to offense we need to run the floor, and I feel like we did a good job of that tonight.”