The Utah Valley men’s basketball team certainly had Cal State Bakersfield’s number last season, beating the Roadrunners in all three meetings. The Wolverines blew out the Roadrunners twice during the regular season and knocked them out of the conference tournament in the first round.
CSUB (9-5, 1-0) will try to flip the script as UVU (11-5, 0-1) comes to town for a 7 p.m. game on Saturday in the Icardo Center. It will be the second game of Western Athletic Conference play for both teams.
The Wolverines lost their conference opener at Grand Canyon but went 11-4 in non-conference play. All the losses came against strong opponents — like BYU and Arizona — and the wins included a road take down of Fresno State.
UVU is led again by the Toolson relatives Jake and Conner. Jake is averaging 15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this season while shooting 57.3 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from 3-point range. Conner is adding 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists. The guards are UVU’s leading scorers.
“Utah Valley is good,” CSUB head coach Rod Barnes said. “Coach (Mark) Pope has done a great job. Then you got the Toolson family. I think it’s all of them involved not just those two (Jake and Conner). I think those guys are really, really good. They're really, really smart. They've surrounded themselves with some big guys inside. ... When you've got that kind of nucleus and foundation — guys that can shoot it and know each other really well — it’s just that edge — and they have it right now — that you need.”
UVU makes 47.7 percent of its field goals, which is the best conversion rate in the conference. Baylee Steele, a transfer center from Eastern Michigan, chips in more than seven rebounds and seven points per game.
CSUB beat Seattle, 83-71, on Thursday. Seattle and Utah Valley were picked third and fourth in the conference, respectively, by the WAC coaches prior to the season, while the media flipped it. CSUB was slotted fifth.
“There are some teams that were picked ahead of us, being honest with you, they are ahead of us at this particular point,” Barnes said. “But I don’t think that gap is so far that we can't close the gap. Hopefully we can do that this weekend. If we can win these two games, I think we’ll be ahead of the curve.”