LAS VEGAS — Cal State Bakersfield forward Bray Barnes waved a towel in circles over his head. For the first time in the second half, the entire CSUB bench was on its feet. Some players held onto one another and others hunched over, anticipating another stop on the defensive end and hoping for a tying or go-ahead basket in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Junior Roadrunners guard Rickey Holden had just jumped in front of a pass near the defensive 3-point line and turned it into a layup on the other end. It cut the Utah Valley lead to just four points with three minutes left in the game.
But that stop never came. UVU’s Conner Toolson made his fourth 3-pointer of the game. The CSUB bench sat down.
UVU’s Jake Toolson made a layup two possesions later and got an extra shove from CSUB redshirt freshman Justin Davis afterward that resulted in a technical foul. Several Roadrunners staff members and players on the sideline covered their faces with their hands. The Wolverines took a 72-60 lead on eight straight points with two minutes to go.
“We fell short,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said after an 81-74 loss to No. 2 Utah Valley (22-9, 10-4 WAC) at Orleans Arena on Thursday.
It was a different feeling for CSUB, heading in to the WAC Tournament as one of the bottom two seeds and it was a different result. The Roadrunners suffered their first opening-round exit since joining the WAC despite making the title game the previous two years. Seventh-seeded CSUB (12-18, 5-9) faced a 15-point halftime deficit and came as close as two points with 12 minutes left in the game.
The 12 wins in the 2017-18 season were the least for CSUB since Barnes took over the program in 2011.
“Our guys were resilient,” Barnes said. “They did a great job of just staying in there. We got it close enough, but experience. You got six seniors on (Utah Valley) and at one time we had four freshmen on the court. It’s a big difference.”
CSUB redshirt senior point guard Brent Wrapp gathered his teammates in the tunnel leading from the locker room to the court with just a few minutes left in halftime. He had seen a look of defeat in his teammates similar to when UVU outscored the Roadrunners 49-17 and 39-20 in the second halves of the first two meetings.
Those games ended in 33- and 23-point Wolverines wins, respectively.
“You gotta fight for yourself and this coaching staff and for the brother next to you,” Wrapp told the team. “Fight for the name on the front and on the back (of your jersey). Play for your family pride and for Bakersfield.
“I thought in the second half, we did a good job of answering the call. Some guys stepped up.”
CSUB redshirt junior Damiyne Durham scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. He made more shots total (12) than anyone else in the game took. Holden tallied all 13 of his points in the second half.
The Roadrunners press forced 17 UVU turnovers and the second-half zone defense contributed to the Wolverines’ shooting percentage drop from 61.5 percent in the first half to 33.3 in the second.
“I don't think we did anything wrong or anything,” Barnes said. “It’s just their experience of being in this game. They made some plays. They made some shots when they needed to make them. That was the difference.”
When Barnes pulled Wrapp with 17 seconds left, the two came together in a hug. Wrapp made his way down the bench, seemingly having to force CSUB assistant Jeff Conarroe — who was the one to originally discover Wrapp in high school — to let go.
Wrapp had come to CSUB as a walk-on who redshirted his freshman year after receiving no Division I scholarship offers. He ended his career tied for the program record with 520 assists and led the Roadrunners on NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament runs the last two years.
Barnes dedicated much of his opening statement after the game to talking about Wrapp — as the head coach has done several times throughout the season. Wrapp fought through tears while talking about the record and his career.
The tumultuous season for CSUB that ended Thursday was plagued with inconsistency, inexperience and injuries.
“In 120 minutes, if we play better than everybody else and we win, all of the injuries, all of the excuses, all of the bad halves, none of that matters,” Barnes said a day before leaving for Vegas. “I mean it matters, but you come home with the trophy and you get the bid.”
But CSUB got just 40 minutes of game time at Orleans Arena and its season ended about 26 hours after the team arrived in Las Vegas.