Cal State Bakersfield head coach Rod Barnes thinks his players will be ready when New Mexico State enters the Icardo Center on Saturday night. He thinks he’ll be ready, too.
But considering the situation the Roadrunners are in, being ready might not be good enough.
CSUB is on a four-game losing streak, during which it has been outscored by an average of almost 22 points. Point guard Brent Wrapp missed Thursday’s loss to Texas-Rio Grande Valley due to illness, putting his status up in the air for Saturday, according to Barnes. Dynamic scorer Damiyne Durham has been suspended indefinitely. His status for Saturday is also in question, Barnes said.
The Roadrunners (7-10, 0-2 Western Athletic) are facing an uphill battle with the defending conference champions in the Icardo Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Aggies (14-3, 2-0) have established themselves as one of the top mid-major teams in the country and CSUB could drop to 0-3 in the WAC for the first time ever.
“We’ve had our fights with New Mexico State and they’re gonna come in here, they got a chance to pounce on us and they’re gonna try to do that,” Barnes said. “We’re gonna have to really man up.”
The main cause for concern for CSUB is its second-half defense. The Roadrunners have given up at least 49 points in the final 20 minutes of the last three games and been outscored by 65 points.
The worst was when Utah Valley started conference play by outscoring CSUB by 32 points in the second half.
“We got to get some defensive things worked out and we know that,” Barnes said.
Minus Wrapp and Durham on Thursday, the Roadrunners were spread too thin. Rickey Holden was forced to play point guard for the majority of the game and the defense was forced into zone because of the personnel available.
CSUB suffered through 16 turnovers and allowed a 52.8 shooting percentage. Justin Davis, Justin McCall and Greg Lee played some of their most significant roles all season.
“We just can’t give up on ourselves even though we had two tough losses,” Holden said. “I know we were capable of winning those games and everybody in the locker room knows we were capable so we just go to work harder and believe in ourselves more and stay disciplined.”
“We just have to do some soul searching and get some people right and get right ourselves and we’ll be fine,” forward Shon Briggs said.
New Mexico State is a team willing and more than able to take advantage of CSUB’s disadvantages. The Aggies have won seven of their last eight games and beat a top-ranked team (then-No. 6 and undefeated Miami) this season.
NMSU is the 60th best team in the country, according to Kenpom’s rankings . CSUB has fallen more than 100 places to a season-worst ranking of 254.
Kenpom gives the Roadrunners as 20 percent chance of winning on Saturday, but don’t mention that to Barnes.
“We’ll come to the game prepared,” Barnes said. “We won’t come to the game and lay down. We won’t come here expecting to lose or anything. That’s just not what we do.”