With two losses to start Western Athletic Conference play, Cal State Bakersfield is on the verge of starting out the WAC season 0-3 for the first time since joining the conference. CSUB lost to Texas-Rio Grande Valley at home on Thursday and now has to come back against one of the top mid-major teams in the country — New Mexico State.
The Aggies (14-3, 2-0) and Roadrunners (7-10, 0-2) will face off starting at 7 p.m. in the Icardo Center. Here’s what you need to know about the matchup.
All-time series: New Mexico State leads, 13-2
Last time they played: NMSU 70, CSUB 60 (March 11, 2017)
CSUB fell just short in its attempt at two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, losing to New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament championship game. The Roadrunners collapsed in the second half and watched a nine-point lead turn into a 10-point deficit.
The Roadrunners had to settle for the National Invitation Tournament, but did go on their run to the final four at Madison Square Garden.
Player to watch: Jemerrio Jones, senior forward, No. 11
Jones is a force to be reckoned with on the boards, grabbing 11.6 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 forward leads the conference and is 10th in the country with already 10 double doubles this season.
Stat to know: 12.7 turnovers per game — NMSU turns the ball over less than any other team in the conference.
Breaking down NMSU: New Mexico State was picked second in the WAC prior to the season but is now the clear favorite. The Aggies took down Grand Canyon on Thursday on the road and beat Miami — which was ranked No. 6 and undefeated — earlier this year.
NMSU takes care of the ball and rebounds better than anyone else in the conference. Guard Zach Lofton is averaging 19.5 points per game and Jones actually lead the team with 3.5 assists per game.
How CSUB beats NMSU: First and foremost, the Roadrunners need Brent Wrapp. If the point guard isn’t recovered from his illness, CSUB doesn’t stand much of a chance. Possibly not having Damiyne Durham because of his indefinite suspension is a big blow but not having Wrapp would be catastrophic.
From there, CSUB will need a basically perfect game of protecting the ball and forcing NMSU into uncharacteristic turnovers. The Roadrunners must have standout performances from Rickey Holden, Jarkel Joiner and Shon Briggs, in addition to other players like Justin Davis stepping up.
Projected starters: CSUB: G - Brent Wrapp, G - Rickey Holden, G - Jarkel Joiner, F - Shon Briggs, C - Moataz Aly.
NMSU: G - AJ Harris, G - Sidy N’Dir, G - Zach Lofton, F - Jemerrio Jones, F - Johnathon Wilkins.