Save for some 3-point attempts, Cal State Bakersfield sophomore Jarkel Joiner could hardly miss in the first half. He had 17 points, seven field goals and more than half of the Roadrunners’ makes.
But the second half was much different. Plenty of Joiner’s shots rolled out of the rim. Damiyne Durham air-balled a 3. Before some late layups padded the stats, Joiner had just three points and CSUB was shooting 24 percent in the second half.
“We got the same shots,” Joiner said. “We just got to knock shots down. We gotta go in the gym and work. … That loss, it’s hurting, but we gonna bounce back and just do what we do as a team.”
The Roadrunners went cold on offense, going 18.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half and 33.3 percent from the field. GCU (14-7, 7-1 Western Athletic) took a two-point game at the half and turned it into a blowout, knocking CSUB (15-7, 6-2) out of first place in the WAC with a 72-59 win in the sold out Icardo Center on Saturday night. The Lopes and New Mexico State are both tied with 7-1 conference records.
The announced attendance was a season-high 3,515. It was CSUB’s first home loss this year (9-1), leaving GCU as the only WAC team undefeated at home.
“They’ve got a good basketball team,” Barnes said. “They executed better than we did and that’s basically it.”
Joiner finished with a game-high 27 points. Roadrunners forward Greg Lee added 16 points and that was mostly it for CSUB’s scoring.
Senior guard Rickey Holden (1-for-7), Durham (1-for-8) and redshirt sophomore guard/ forward Justin Edler-Davis (3-for-8) shot a combined 17.4 percent
“If you give me Justin Davis and those guys with open shots, hey I’ll take it,” Barnes said.
Led by 20 points off the bench from Carlos Johnson, the Lopes shot 42.2 percent in the game. Johnson made 10 free throws and GCU went 27-for-31 from the line. Grand Canyon was 17-for-19 with 3:49 to go before the Roadrunners began intentionally fouling.
It was clear before the game started that this wasn’t just any other game in the Icardo Center. Fans packed the areas above the bleachers because there appeared to be insufficient seating to accommodate all of them. CSUB guard/forward Taze Moore and forward James Suber ran into the Roadrunners student section in the stands during warm-ups. The rest of the CSUB team stayed on the court trying to fire them up, while also getting booed by the GCU fans sitting right there.
And CSUB answered the hype to start. Greg Lee hit a baseline jumper before Joiner hit a step back 3-pointer and then a wide-open 3. The Roadrunners led 8-0 before the Lopes settled in.
Near the end of the first, Joiner drove left and flipped the ball back to Lee for a 3-pointer to give the Roadrunners a 30-28 lead. GCU’s Demari Milstead responded with a runner to tie the game.
Joiner nearly dove into the court-side seats while whiffing on a steal attempt. It left Johnson by himself for a first-half capping alley-oop from Milstead.
Joiner spent just 43 seconds on the bench in the first half. Barnes wasn’t concerned about that.
“Whether that came from Jarkel getting open and making them, whether it was Rickey making them, I knew we were gonna have to make shots to win the game,” Barnes said of his thoughts going into the second half.
CSUB didn’t make enough. With 3:49 to go and down 58-45, the Roadrunners had just six makes in the second half. During a 16-3 GCU, CSUB made one of its 12 shots.
Assistant coach Jeff Conarroe urged the Roadrunners to fight. Assistant coach Benjy Taylor begged for more movement on offense. The shots continued to roll out.
“I had the same feeling (after the game as) I had before the game,” Barnes said.
“Like I told our kids, ‘If you’re gonna put everything in a regular season, midseason game, then that’s not what our program is about.’ So I don’t feel any different. I feel disappointed because we lost.”