CSUB cruises past Idaho, looks ahead to inaugural Big West contest


CSUB senior Justin McCall finishes with a two-hand slam in Saturday’s 76-66 victory over Idaho at the Icardo Center.

Ron Stapp, Sports editor

An energized Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball team took control early, survived an onslaught of 3-pointers, and cruised to a 76-66 victory over Idaho on Saturday afternoon in the Icardo Center.  

“I’m pleased overall,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said. “I’m looking forward to next week as we start to finish up with finals so we can get some more work in because there’s some things that we have to shore up as we start to prepare for Big West play.”

Now the Roadrunners will have to try to hold onto some of that energy for the next two weeks.

The ’Runners were originally scheduled to host Life Pacific on Saturday at 1 p.m. in its final tune-up before opening conference play, but the game was canceled at Life Pacific’s request. CSUB plays UC Davis on Dec. 27 in its inaugural Big West Conference game.

The Roadrunners coaching staff is looking into the possibility of scheduling additional games to fill the unexpected gap.

In the interim, the team’s solid performance against Idaho will have to suffice.

“I thought our defensive pressure and our depth really got to them at the beginning of the second half,” Barnes said. “And then I thought late, I thought we had breakdowns because I think we gotta be a team that understands how to put teams away.”

Those breakdowns came at the defensive end, and the Vandals (0-4) took advantage, making 13 of 23 3-pointers to stay close throughout. Conversely, CSUB made just 1 of 9 from beyond arc, giving Idaho a 37-point advantage.

“I thought our guys played extremely hard,” Barnes said. “(Idaho) came out and we knew they were a good 3-point shooting team, didn’t know they were that good … They hit some contested shots early on.

“We have to give them credit. They made shots at the end of the half and the second half, but our defense wasn’t the same after we built a double-digit lead.”

The Vandals opened the game — with what else — a 3-pointer, but the lead didn’t last long. Justin McCall scored a transition basket, Shawn Stith followed with a bucket inside and the Roadrunners never trailed thereafter.

Stith and fellow big man Ronne Readus were active all night, scoring inside — and perhaps more importantly — getting Idaho’s leading scorer Scott Blakney in foul trouble. Stith finished with 11 points and four rebounds, with Readus adding five points, six rebounds and two blocks.

“I’m just very thankful and grateful that my teammates are looking for me,” Stith said. “A lot of times earlier, teams would dare us to shoot jumpers, but we’re so athletic and strong going to the basket that a lot of teams are going to have trouble stopping us from going to the basket.”

That philosophy also worked for CSUB’s smallest player, senior point guard Czar Perry. Perry led a balanced Roadrunner attack with 14 points, including back-to-back driving left-handed layups that gave Bakersfield a 41-34 lead with 1:20 left in the first half.

“I was just looking at how he was playing defense,” Perry said. “They were just coming up and trying to pressure, and when they came up, I just went past them.

“We just knew to get it inside and try to draw fouls so we can get into the bonus quick. Also, the game plan was to throw it inside, either throw it in there or dribble. So that was the mindset we had to attack the paint the whole game.”

Leading 24-12 following a baseline jumper by Justin Edler-Davis, the Vandals scored eight straight points and pulled within four points on a 3-pointer by DeAndre Robinson, one of his four 3s.

But each time Idaho started to pull close, CSUB had an answer. Stith followed with a basket off a spin move inside and Taze Moore scored off a out-of-bounds lob play.

Idaho pulled to within three points a few minutes later, but another jumper by Edler Davis and two more from De’Monte Buckingham — including the Roadrunners’ only 3-pointer of the night — build the lead back to 35-26 with 3:45 left  in the half.

Buckingham finished with 11 points, with Edler-Davis adding eight. McCall scored six, along with Moore, who missed Wednesday’s game at Arizona with a bruised thigh suffered in the season opener Dec. 2. 

“I think it (the win) boosts our confidence up before we go into conference,” Perry said. “As long as we keep playing hard and playing together. Playing together is the main key. As long we do that I feel like our confidence will go even (higher) as the season goes on.”