In last Thursday's loss at Northern Arizona, the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners totaled just four assists. Turning the page Monday night, they recorded 20, and used exemplary ball movement to build a substantial first half lead and beat Colorado College 99-54.
Even if the win came against the Division III Tigers — and even if the Roadrunners were sluggish in the second half, committing seven fouls in the first 4:19 — the team showed some signs of marked improvement, CSUB coach Rod Barnes said.
"The start of the game, it was like we want to play," he said. "We shared the ball, we played really hard on the defensive end, we didn't foul as much."
CSUB opened up a 33-point lead in just under 15 minutes and sat on that margin for much of the rest of the game, even as the Tigers, coached by former Barnes assistant Jeff Conarroe, battled back, more than doubling their first half point total in the second.
"I'm proud of him," Barnes said. "Obviously we're going to be rooting for them. Hopefully we helped them get better tonight."
Despite their later improvements, the Tigers couldn't put much together on the offensive end, and the Roadrunners punished them by recording 33 points off 25 turnovers. (The Tigers, meanwhile, had just two points off 14 CSUB turnovers.) CSUB had five players in double figures, led by redshirt sophomore guard Shaun Williams with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Veteran Justin McCall scored 12 after posting just two points at NAU, while newcomers Antavion "Dude" Collum and Ivan Reynolds came off the bench to lead scoring surges.
Unlike in their previous home game against NAIA Life Pacific, the Roadrunners started with aggressive defense and fast-paced offense. CSUB opened a 22-2 lead, highlighted by Reynolds's acrobatic block, followed by his steal leading to a fast-break dunk. The Tigers' lone basket in the first quarter of the game came from Scott Ruegg, who went on to lead them with 13 points off the bench.
The Roadrunners augmented their lead when their press defense started to produce turnovers, and a layup through contact from Williams and alley-oop from Williams to McCall to make it 35-6 exemplified their dominant play early.
"There was an emphasis on going down and playing unselfish — whoever's open, take your shot," McCall said.
Some cracks started to show late in the first half, when the Tigers strung together an 8-2 run including threes from Ruegg and Scott Cunningham. But CSUB extended its lead back to 55-17 at the half, closing on a pair of free throws from Travis Henson (12 points).
Colorado College's offense continued at its glacial pace, but early in the second half CSUB wasn't much better, racking up fouls in the first four minutes and taking just as long to record its first field goal.
"We relaxed," Barnes said. "I told our guys, they're better than the score showed... that's our inconsistency that we've got to improve on."
There was never really a moment in the second half when CSUB took back control, either. When Colorado College got three threes in a two-minutes span, CSUB used some free throws and a McCall dunk to counter them. But a Tigers team stymied throughout the first half found plenty of open space, albeit often against the Roadrunners' backups, and was outscored just 44-37 in the second period. A pair of late threes from Henson helped CSUB widen their lead to 99-54 as the clock ran out.
"I think we'll be a lot more consistent as we continue to build trust with each other on the offensive end and the defensive end as well," McCall said.
Now 2-2, the Roadrunners will seek their first road win, and first win over a Division I opponent, when they travel to Boise State on Friday.