The halfway point of Cal State Bakersfield’s inaugural Western Athletic Conference season has arrived and the Roadrunner women’s basketball team remained hot Saturday afternoon.
The Roadrunners stayed in control the entire second half and downed Texas-Pan American 82-74 in a battle of second-place teams in the WAC.
“In the preseason they had us ranked No. 5 in one poll and another had us sixth or fourth,” CSUB coach Greg McCall said after Bakersfield won its fourth straight WAC game. CSUB is 12-8 overall and alone in second place at 6-2 in the WAC.
“I’ve told our girls this is not where we need to be. My expectation is to come out here and battle ... and be one of the top two teams in this conference.”
Junior guard Tyonna Outland had 21 points and 12 rebounds, senior Melissa Sweat had 19 points and sophomore forward Batabe Zempare continued her solid play that has sparked CSUB’s recent success.
Zempare set a CSUB Div. I record with 21 rebounds, bettering her previous high of 19 earlier this season, and she had 14 points, all in the second half, for her team-leading sixth double-double of the season.
“It’s mind blowing,” Zempare said of her rebounding. She entered the game averaging 11.3 boards a game, which ranks 14th in the nation among Div. I players.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Zempare added. “They’ve kept pushing me.”
Zempare’s offense has perked up in recent games. She had a career-high 26 points two nights earlier vs. New Mexico State.
“We’ve stressed that No. 1, it starts on the defensive end,” McCall said of Zempare’s play. “They (opponents) key a lot on Ty and they key a lot on Melissa, so it leaves the inside open.
The last four to five games we’ve gotten in the 50s in the paint. We’ve been working on Batabe to post up a lot.”
CSUB raced to a 14-2 lead before the game was five minutes old. But the Broncs (11-10, 5-3 WAC) chipped away and finally tied it 24-24 and then took their only lead of the game with 3:29 left in the first half, 29-28.
But Bakersfield scored seven straight points to regain the lead and the Broncs never caught up.
But Pan American’s athleticism prevented the Roadrunners from building an insurmountable lead.
CSUB’s lead was only 72-68 with 2:05 remaining when a layup by Sweat, who was able to regain possession after the ball was stripped away, started a 5-0 run that made it 77-68 with a minute to play. Five CSUB free throws in the final 14 seconds clinched it.
Pan American was led by point guard KaeLynn Boyd’s 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Lightning-quick wings Shawnte Goff and Jasmine Thompson added 13 points each.
“We knew they would be a tough challenge because of their athleticism,” McCall said. “They do a good job utilizing their speed ... and they don’t quit, regardless of what the score is.”
The rest of the WAC concludes the first half of conference play on Thursday, when CSUB is idle. The Roadrunners host Grand Canyon at 1 p.m. Saturday to open the second half of WAC play.