Cal State Bakersfield women’s basketball coach Greg McCall had no difficulty pinpointing the determining factor in his team’s 72-59 loss to UC Irvine on Sunday afternoon.
“Second quarter, ugly,” McCall Said. “We weren’t playing defense. We weren’t scoring buckets. We were definitely way out of sync and not looking like the team you normally see.”
The Roadrunners were out-scored 26-0 during a 10 minute and 53 second stretch of the game beginning late in the first quarter and never recovered, dropping the final scheduled non-league game of their season in front of a sparse but boisterous crowd the Icardo Center.
Trailing by 25 points at halftime, CSUB (6-7) rallied in the second half behind a huge all-around effort by Jazmine Johnson and twice pulled within nine points of tying things late in the game.
Johnson finished with a career-high 25 points and a team-high six rebounds.
“She did a remarkable job of stepping up today,” McCall said. “She provided some big-time buckets. We knew she had it in her.”
CSUB came out strong and led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter despite being without the services of two of its top players Aja Williams and Jazmyne Bartee.
Williams, the team’s leading scorer this season, averaging 12.5 points per game, and Bartee the Runners leading rebounder, 6.6 per game, watched the game in street clothes from the grandstands.
“Violation of team rules, we’ll leave it at that,” McCall said when asked why Williams and Bartee didn’t suit up for the game.
The ‘Runners certainly could have used the pair in the second quarter at they struggled mightily against UCI’s aggressive full court zone defense.
CSUB turned the ball over 11 times during the second quarter, leading to several easy transition baskets for the Anteaters, who finished the game with 21 points off turnovers.
UCI (7-6) shot 55.6-percent (10 of 18) from the field in the second quarter, including 3 of 4 attempts from three-point range.
Meanwhile, the ‘Runners were 1 of 13 (7.7-percent) from the floor in the second quarter.
The huge shooting discrepancy between the two teams helped the Anteaters out-score CSUB 25-3 in the second quarter and lead 43-18 at intermission.
The 43 points given up by the ‘Runners in the first half and the 72 they allowed for the game were both season highs.
CSUB entered the day ranked No. 17 nationally in scoring defense, allowing and average of only 54.5 points per game.
After making several halftime adjustments, the ‘Runners played much better on both ends of the court in the second half. They scored 12 more points than UCI during the game’s final 20 minutes.
“The third and fourth quarter we came out and played our style of basketball,” McCall said. “It was just one of those things where time is not on your side all the time. We ran out of time after finally getting into a groove and getting some things to go our way.”
Johnson was the catalyst for CSUB’s impressive but ultimately unsuccessful comeback attempt. The 5-foot-7 junior guard provided not only much-needed scoring and rebounding in the absence of Williams and Bartee, but also a strong court presence and leadership.
“We needed some to rally us up,” Johnson said “So, I felt like that needed to be me, especially being probably one of the oldest on the team. (I felt like) I needed to step up and get the team going. Let them know that it’s not over and we can win this game.”
Johnson’s and the rest of the ‘Runners’ never give up effort was something positive to draw out of the loss, according to McCall.
“I told our group after the game I’m disappointed with the loss but happy with the way they came out and played in the second half,” McCall said. “They showed their fans that there’s no quit in this team.”