There are many ways to describe what Georgia Southern did to Cal State Bakersfield in Statesboro, Georgia in what was the second game of the season for both teams.
None of them are flattering.
CSUB head coach rod Barnes said the Eagles “put a pretty good whooping on us” and point guard Brent Wrapp said the Roadrunners got “smacked.”
But they have a chance to set the record straight.
The Roadrunners are hosting Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Icardo Center more than one month after the Eagles beat CSUB, 77-53. CSUB claims to be — and has looked like — a much improved team since then. On Saturday, that theory will be put to the test.
“It’s an opportunity for us to measure where we were and where we are now because they’re a team that’s still playing well,” Barnes said. “We’re fixing to meet the same team that beat us pretty good at their place.”
The first time around, the Roadrunners fell behind by double digits seven minutes into the game and trailed 36-17 at halftime. The Eagles’ big lead swelled to 29 points in the second half.
Georgia Southern’s Tookie Brown subbed out for good with four and a half minutes left and Ike Smith exited with 1:21 to go. At the time Smith left for good, CSUB had just one more total point (46) than Brown and Smith combined for (45).
The Roadrunners shot just 23.5 percent on 17 shots from 3 and turned the ball over 18 times. It didn’t help that they gave up 19 free throw attempts in the first half.
What bothered Barnes the most was the composure of the team, he said immediately afterward.
“After we got down, it kind of snowballed on us,” Barnes said. “... I just didn't think we ended up handling it well.”
In his talk to the team afterward, Barnes explained that Georgia Southern had three players in the backcourt that averaged between 28 and 33 minutes per game the previous two seasons.
Wrapp, Damiyne Durham and an injured Bray Barnes were the only CSUB players even on the team for the last two years. Wrapp played the most in 2016-17 with 24.2 minutes per game.
“Our real problem was really just all of us gelling together for our first time just playing together,” said Rickey Holden, who transferred from a junior college this year and was tasked with running the offense for much of the time early in the season. “I feel like we became more of a team. We know each other a lot more. I feel like we got a lot better.”
Redshirt freshman Justin Davis has emerged as a viable defensive, rebounding and 3-point threat. Sharpshooter Damiyne Durham is hitting his stride with 36 points and a 45 percent conversion rate from beyond 3 in the last two games. Shon Briggs has shown flashes of returning to last season’s late-year dominant form.
The offense, which as struggled at times, scored 100 and 66 points the last two games as Wrapp has gotten healthier and back into the point guard role.
The composure is there, too, Barnes, Wrapp and Holden said. CSUB lost to UCLA by just nine. The Roadrunners beat Idaho in the Great Alaska Shootout despite trailing by 12 in the second half and then lost to Central Michigan one day later by just three after falling behind by 12 in the second half of that one.
“It’s just a totally different team,” Wrapp said. “We sort of have our roles more figured out and we’re just better as an overall unit.”
Barnes' expectations have been heightened, too. He won’t put up with the same “brutal” mistakes this time around.
“I’m not making anymore excuses,” Barnes told the players about 10 games into the year. “We got to play the game. Guys have got to rise up, got to grow up. We’ve had enough time on the court together. … We got to figure out how to win and we’ll grow after that.”