On the surface, the nine-day break for Cal State Bakersfield's men's basketball team should have enabled the Roadrunners to work on various aspects of their game and fine-tune elements that have been successful.
While some of that has happened heading into tonight's 7 p.m. game against Utah Valley in the Icardo Center, it hasn't gone according to script.
Nagging injuries have prevented several players from practicing at full speed.
"It's something we've preached a lot," said CSUB assistant coach Jeff Conarroe. "Guys are getting some chances that hadn't been getting an opportunity. It's an opportunity to build character. When you're injured, you figure out how to play through it."
CSUB is 7-14 this season; Utah Valley is 10-12. Both teams are battling injuries.
For CSUB, senior guard Stephon Carter, who is chasing the all-time career scoring record at CSUB, has been bothered by a right knee injury that has hampered his play the last two games.
Carter, who was averaging 15.7 points per game prior to the injury, has had back-to-back nine-point games.
And this week in practice, he bit into his tongue after catching an elbow to the bottom of his jaw. That wound needed stitches to close.
Despite all that, Carter is expected to play tonight.
"When his knee bothers him, he gets off (skips a practice)," junior guard Brandon Barnes said. "Stephon says he's going to play. He doesn't want to sit out."
CSUB sophomore shooting guard Javonte Maynor has a broken rib. Conarroe said Maynor has been cleared to play but how much depends on how he handles the pain.
Senior point guard Tyrone White and senior forward Adam Young, who share the honor as the tallest players on this season's team at 6-foot-8, are both slowed by ankle injuries but expected to play tonight.
"We've had to shorten practices up and we took a couple of days off," Conarroe said. "There's nothing you can do about injuries. All you can do is treat them and deal with them."
Guards Matt Ratto and Erik Kinney and forward Kregg Jones all saw more playing time than usual in CSUB's last game, a 66-36 loss at Santa Clara on Jan. 23.
"That adds to our depth and experience," Conarroe said. "Hopefully that sets the stage for us moving foward."
Utah Valley, like CSUB, will join the Western Athletic Conference on July 1. The Roadrunners have nine games left and four are against teams from next season's WAC.
"This is a good game to get under our belt to see the competition going into the WAC," said Barnes, who's second on the team with an 11.7 scoring average. "We'll probably play them about this same time next year so it's like we're playing a conference game with them."
Utah Valley has its own key injuries. Junior 6-foot-9 center Ben Aird, the team's top scorer (14.1) and rebounder (8.6), has missed the last two games with back spasms. His status for tonight is unknown.
Utah Valley's third-leading scorer, 6-foot-4 senior forward Alfonzo Hubbard (11.6) is out infinitely with an ACL injury. He has missed three straight games.