Cal State Bakersfield head coach Greg McCall was bold enough to call out steals from the sideline before they even happened. Considering the way his defense was playing, maybe it wasn’t that bold at all.
“Oh yeah, we got that. We got that,” McCall called out and clapped before CSUB guard Daije Harris ripped a ball away from Omaha’s Ellie Brecht midway through the first quarter and the Roadrunners started the offensive break.
CSUB’s defense was dominant early on, holding Omaha (7-4) to just four first-quarter points en route to a 52-43 win over the Mavericks on Monday night at the Icardo Center. The 16-point lead the Roadrunners (5-6) built up by halftime was enough to hold on for the win.
“They’re a really good team,” McCall said of Omaha. “We were expecting them to make some type of run. We knew we couldn’t hold them like that forever.”
Omaha’s run came in the form of a 16-2 stretch in the fourth quarter that took a game that was on pace to be a blowout and made it a five-point difference with more than a minute left. CSUB made just one field goal in that seven-minute stretch.
Roadrunners guard Aja Williams split three defenders for an acrobatic layup with 49 seconds left to stop the run. CSUB gave up just two free throws over the last minute of the game.
“Overall, I’m very pleased with what we’ve done,” McCall said. “We continued to get better. You could tell we still got a long way to go.”
Omaha’s first four possessions of the game all ended in turnovers. On its first two, it got only about as far as half court.
CSUB guard Alexxus Gilbert tipped a pass to Jazmine Johnson, who ran about 40 feet for the easy layup.
The Roadrunners had six points, three steals and four offensive rebounds before the Mavericks even took a shot.
Omaha did eventually attempt a shot on a Courtney Vaccher made layup four and a half minutes into the game.
But it only made one more in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“We don’t want anybody to score,” Johnson said. “Especially myself.”
After a quarter, CSUB had more steals (five) than Omaha had points (four). The Roadrunners’ 15 offensive rebounds were more than the Mavericks’ 10 shots.
Even on a play where Gilbert fell down along the sideline on the press and was mocked by the Omaha bench, Gilbert recovered to swat away a pass. She would’ve had a steal if she didn’t land out of bounds as she dove for the ball.
“We don’t take any plays off,” Johnson said. “... Just go hard for those minutes because you’re gonna get a sub when you’re tired.”
At halftime, Omaha had as many turnovers (10) as it did points. The Roadrunners’ defense made up for a stalling offense. Even though CSUB tallied just seven points in the second quarter, it still stretched its lead by one.
The Mavericks adjusted well to CSUB’s full-court traps. Omaha found the open outlet on double teams, which occasionally led to layups. McCall countered with full court man-to-man, shifting the advantage slightly back into his favor.
Johnson finished with four steals and Williams had three. The two combined for 26 points in an offensively inefficient game where CSUB shot 25.7 percent. The Roadrunners missed 52 shots.
Thirty minutes after the end of the game, Omaha’s assistant coaches were still bewildered by what had happen.
“They shot 26 percent and they won,” one said of CSUB. “That’s impossible.”
“I’m just glad we got into the 40s,” another added.