Cal State Bakersfield won the game of attrition Monday night.
In a game that featured 68 free throws, 57 fouls and four players who fouled out, the Roadrunners took the lead early in the first half and never gave it up in a 74-66 win over Nevada before 1,612 at Rabobank Arena.
Another three players ended the game with four fouls. With the NCAA instructing officials to call tighter games this season, these type of games will be commonplace, CSUB coach Rod Barnes said.
"We're OK with it," Barnes said after CSUB improved to 3-1. "In years past I'd be concerned because we didn't have the depth.
"Tonight we lost two of our best players. But it didn't change the way we played. ... The biggest concern I had was making free throws."
CSUB was 28-of-40 from the line and Nevada (2-2) was 21-of-28.
The Roadrunners faced a crucial moment with 15:09 left in the game when 6-foot-10 junior center Abdul Ahmed, who had just scored back-to-back baskets to give CSUB a 45-36 lead, was called for his fourth foul, ahmed argued briefly with the officials and got hit with a technical, which counts as a personal and fouled him out.
In the first half, senior guard Zach Lamb, who had just entered the game for the first time, crashed hard to the floor and left the game with a back injury, Barnes said. Lamb didn't return.
"It was a blow," CSUB senior guard Issiah Grayson said of losing Ahmed in that manner. "But we've got depth. Coach kept our minds right."
Barnes said he remained confident as Ahmed walked off the floor.
"I wasn't fazed," Barnes said. "I thought we could still win the game. Zech Smith (Ahmed's backup) has done a great job in practice. I have a lot of confidence in our team."
Grayson finished with a Bakersfield-leading 15 points and six assists. Ahmed had 14 points, junior guard Tyrell Corbin scored 13 and sophomore forward Erik Kinney had 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
Grayson had the primary task of defending Nevada senior guard Deonte Burton most of the night. Burton had 24 points and came into the game averaging 25.3. Corbin and Javonte Maynor also took turns guarding Burton, but it was mostly Grayson's assignment.
"He's a top-level guy," Grayson said. "He brings it every possession. He kept bringing it. He got his. He's a great player."
But CSUB double-teamed Burton throughout the game.
"They took the ball out of Deonte Burton's hands," Nevada coach David Carter said. "They were able to double-team him and make other guys make plays."
Burton had 13 first-half points, but only scored four points in the first 16 minutes of the second half. That was crucial in the Roadrunners' ability to stay in command.
"We wanted to trap him in the backcourt to make him work," Barnes said. "He's been a guy who's taken over games late in the second half for them."
CSUB's biggest lead was 13 points. The Wolf Pack pulled within six twice with less than three minutes to play, but Corey Hall hit two key baskets and the Roadrunners sank five free throws in the final 1:36 to thwart Nevada's comeback hope.
"Their guard play was very good tonight," Carter said. "They have toughness and a lot of depth. I think they'll do real well in the WAC Conference."