The past several games for Cal State Bakersfield guard Alexxus Gilbert has meant going back to her roots. The junior, whose role was confined to just point guard for the majority of non-conference play, has been let loose recently by CSUB head coach Greg McCall.
“I’m just dipping back into the shooting guard game a little bit,” Gilbert said, referencing the position she played in high school.
Instead of sticking to point guard whenever she is on the floor, Gilbert has been playing off the ball, too, during conference play. It’s boosted the Roadrunners offense as a whole and helped CSUB to its 4-2 start to Western Athletic Conference play. CSUB is just one game back of first place.
“It’s been definitely a blessing for us cause she’s been really, really shooting the ball really well,” McCall said. “Controlling the offense, knocking down mid-range shots to 3s, to getting to the basket.”
When CSUB’s leading scorer Aja Williams missed the first WAC game while suspended for a violation of team rules, McCall had to find a way to make up for the lost production and lost minutes. Among other adjustments, he decided to try out Gilbert off the ball when Dalis Jones came in to play point instead of taking Gilbert off the court.
Gilbert took a season-high six 3-pointers, made what was at the time a season-high three 3s, and scored a team-high 13 points in the home win over Utah Valley on Jan. 6.
“It just made it easier for us,” McCall said. “Once she started knocking down shots, the way she’s been shooting, it just made it that much easier for us to say, ‘Hey, let’s keep her over there. Let’s keep her in the game, keep her rolling.”
In the 14 non-conference games, Gilbert was averaging 7.6 points per game, shooting 32.8 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3, and playing 27.6 minutes per game.
In the team’s six conference games, Gilbert has scored 12.2 points per game, shot 38.3 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from 3, and played 31.5 minutes per game.
Gilbert had not taken more than five 3s in a game prior to WAC play but has now done it each of the last three games. She’s reached double digits in points in five of the last six games, leading the team three times. Gilbert only scored 10 or more points five times during non-conference play.
The hardest part was learning the plays from the shooting guard spot, Gilbert said, but McCall let her practice at the position more. Though she would second guess herself earlier in the season, Gilbert is now more confident with her shot.
“If I’m open, I’m gonna shoot it,” Gilbert said. “That’s how it is.”
Gilbert’s expanded role has added a scoring weapon for the CSUB offense and made it more versatile. Now, Alize’ Lofton will run plays from up top while playing the power forward position to get Gilbert looks coming off screens.
The offense, which struggled mightily in non-conference play and was even held to 29 points in one game, has scored 62.3 points per game during WAC play. It scored 55.1 points per game in the previous 14.
The Roadrunners broke out in the first quarter against Seattle on Jan. 27, scoring 35 points in the first 10 minutes of the game — their most ever in a quarter by far. Gilbert had five points and three assists during the stretch.
“It’s just one of those things where she’s playing with some confidence,” McCall said. “That’s what we want at this time of year.”