Seemingly on the cusp of getting run out of the gym midway through the second half, Cal State Bakersfield flipped the switch and successfully chased an undermanned Grand Canyon team out of the Icardo Center Saturday.
Taze Moore made a string of big plays down the stretch, including a go-ahead layup with 42 seconds to play, and the Roadrunners closed the night on a 13-0 run to take down Grand Canyon 69-62 in their WAC opener.
Down by six with just over two minutes to play, Moore, who finished with 15 points, went on a personal 7-0 run, hitting a layup and 3-pointer to cut the Antelope lead to 62-61.
After getting a stop on the other end, Moore gave the 'Runners their first lead of the second half when he cut to the rim with ease, then scored off a Czar Perry inbounds pass, putting CSUB up 63-62.
“(Rod) Barnes, as we all know, the man is a great coach. He set that up," Moore said of the play. "He told me to go back door and I listened to what the boss said. Because if you don’t, boss gonna pull you.”
After De'Monte Buckingham, who led all players with 25 points, made it 65-62 with a pair of free throws, Moore made arguably the play of the game, chasing down Carlos Johnson for a huge two-handed block. To make matters better, the ball deflected off Johnson and rolled out of bounds, setting up two more Buckingham free throws.
A positive outcome seemed unlikely for the Roadrunners with 11:53 to play. After missing 12 straight shots at one point in the first half, the struggles carried over into the second, and after Lorenzo Jenkins knocked down a 3-pointer, Grand Canyon held a 48-36 lead.
Down 50-38, Buckingham and Moore turned the game on its head quickly, teaming to hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions to spark a 9-0 run in just 48 seconds.
Continuing to keep it close, CSUB took over down the stretch, holding a tired Grand Canyon scoreless for the last 2:46. With all five Antelope starters playing at least 28 minutes, Barnes was confident his team could wear them down, and the Roadrunners did just that.
“Probably (with) about 10 minutes to go, our coaches started saying ‘Hey, man, they’re fading,'" Barnes said. "You could kind of tell it was wearing on them. I think their depth was really a problem for them and it was very beneficial for us.”
Greg Lee added a game-high 13 rebounds and CSUB was a perfect 9-of-9 from the foul line in the second half to close out a Grand Canyon team that entered the night 6-0 in WAC openers.
The win, the Roadrunners' third straight against a non-power conference teams, improves their overall record to 7-9 and, more importantly, gets them to 1-0 in conference play.
“If you ask me, the puzzle pieces are starting to fall," Moore said. "Everything is going so well for us. Overall, we just want to fight, we want to be the best team.
"We don’t even care about the record standpoint because it’s over with. It’s 0-0 now. We’re going to continue to be that dog team that y’all see in this WAC conference.”