The groans and jeers from the crowd in the Icardo Center on Saturday — including jokes about zebras and Foot Locker employees — that followed the majority of the referee whistles turned into cheers.
Instead of a Grand Canyon player at the free throw line, which happened 37 times on the night, it was Cal State Bakersfield point guard Brent Wrapp after an intentional foul. He hit both to put the Roadrunners up 13 with 1:35 left.
In a physical game slowed down by 51 combined fouls, CSUB (11-15, 4-7 Western Athletic) held on to beat Grand Canyon (17-10, 6-5), 71-58. A 20-point first half lead for the Roadrunners shrunk to eight with 10 minutes left in the game, but GCU shot just 56.8 percent from the charity stripe.
“It was a very physical, intense game,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said. “I thought we handled ourselves well. Just proud of our kids because as you could tell, it took every last one of them because of the way the game was called. It took everybody ... to win the game.”
Center Fallou Ndoye and forwards Justin Davis and Greg Lee all fouled out for CSUB. Moataz Aly received his fourth foul with about 14 minutes left, confining him to the bench for most of the remainder of the game.
CSUB point guard Brent Wrapp tallied his 500th career assist in the came. He’s the second Roadrunner to reach the 500 mark and is just 19 away from breaking the program’s career assist record.
It was CSUB’s first win against a team currently over .500 in the WAC.
Coming out the locker room before the game, Barnes noticed a different “swagger” with his team.
“We’re ready to play tonight,” Barnes thought to himself. “I don't know what’s gonna happen because we have young guys. … Man, I hope we don't get in foul trouble. I knew our guys were ready to fight.”
On the defensive end, the CSUB aggressiveness translated into a 27.3 percent first-half shooting performance from Grand Canyon and just one assist for the Antelopes. GCU had just 16 points until five free throws propelled a 7-0 run to end the half.
The Roadrunners converted 42.9 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes and led 34-21 at the break.
“Just trying to cause chaos on the defensive side,” CSUB guard Damiyne Durham said. “Make them turn it over, make them speed up, just anything we can do to throw them off.”
Durham led the Roadrunners with 17 points and 38 minutes despite going 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Barnes’ concerns about foul trouble were realized in the second half.
With 16 minutes left, Ndoye, Ali, Davis and Lee — CSUB’s primary inside players — had four, three, three and four fouls, respectively. Six minutes later, Ndoye and Lee were done for the day, while Aly was stuck on the bench.
“Go back to Foot Locker,” a few people yelled to the officials.
“In the beginning, they weren't really calling those fouls, but it got a little chippy,” Davis said. “That’s the way we like it, though. When we got a little chippy, we had to adjust to it, take our hands off. We had a little trouble doing that, but we definitely like it chippy in there. It was fun. I liked it.”
Davis finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The foul trouble led to Bray Barnes, son of head coach Rod Barnes who seldom plays, entering the game with seven minutes left. The player made the most of the minutes, converting an and-one layup after a flurry of loose balls. The basket sent the crowd into a frenzy and put the Roadrunners up 58-44.
The head coach called it the biggest shot his son has hit in his career.
“Any time you can beat a team like that, it’s good for your confidence,” Wrapp said, “but we’re confident in who we are as a bunch.”