Cal State Bakersfield didn’t move itself out of the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference standings on Thursday night. One win isn’t enough to do that.
But the Roadrunners avoided a drop into a tie for last place in the WAC and a plunge to what could have been rock bottom on the season — and did it in convincing fashion.
CSUB (9-13, 2-5 WAC) blew out Chicago State (2-22, 0-7), 91-61, at the Icardo Center on Thursday. The Roadrunners finally got their second conference win on the year and earned their first real domination of another Division I team this season.
“I was expecting it,” CSUB guard Damiyne Durham said, referencing the strong week of practice. “We knew we were gonna do that.”
The Roadrunners’ lead shrunk to nine points in the second half, but soon afterward CSUB rattled off 17 straight points. Durham had eight of the points thanks to a dunk and two 3-pointers.
Durham, who missed CSUB’s first two home conference games because of suspension, was a more unselfish version of himself early in the game. He passed up what would have been an open transition 3-pointer to dump the ball down low to Joiner for a layup attempt.
“I’m trying to be more involved with my teammates, take more of a leadership role on the team,” Durham said of the change in his play since returning from the suspension.
“He’s playing better defense,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said. “He’s playing harder. He’s starting to go to the offensive glass. … It’s about effort. It’s about defense. It’s about playing with heart. Tonight, I think we started to see the Damiyne that we all were kind of expecting to see back in November.”
Durham led the team with 18 points and 30 minutes. He managed two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
The sharpshooter’s highlight play for fans started with an off-ball cut from the right corner. Wrapp bounced a pass to him and Durham finished with a baseline dunk over a defender.
“I don’t care nothing about no dunking, man,” Durham said. “If it happens, it happens. I shoot.”
The comment drew a laugh from teammate Rickey Holden, who jokingly called Durham “sort of a shooter” and labeled himself as a better shooter than Durham.
Though Barnes has cut down on Holden’s minutes to preserve him for the end of the season, the junior college transfer still was second on the team with 17 points. He muscled in a string of contested layups early in the game and knocked down three of his six 3-pointers.
“We played more together this game,” Holden said. “We knew where everybody was. We played great defense, help side defense.”
The Roadrunners coaxed the Cougars into 17 turnovers and scored 24 points as a result. It was one of the few times this season CSUB has successfully turned steals into layups, Barnes said.
CSUB held Chicago State to 37.7 percent shooting and kept leading scorer Fred Sims Jr. to just six points. It was the first time Sims Jr. was held to under 12 points in his last nine games.
One of the more satisfying plays for Barnes was one where Justin Davis dove into the courtside seats to knock a ball into the middle of the court. Holden beat Sims Jr. to the ball and scrambled to the ground to secure it.
“We played extremely hard tonight,” Barnes said. “As a result, I thought some good things happened to us. That’s the kind of way that we’ve been practicing. I was just excited to see our guys play with a lot of enthusiasm.”