LAS VEGAS — Cal State Bakersfield women’s basketball head coach Greg McCall didn’t have an explanation for an issue he had thought about all season long. He could have brought up the idea inconsistency, like he and his players had been doing for months, but that was more part of the problem than a reason for it.
In 31 games, the Roadrunners could never string together three straight wins. They reached two in a row four different times. And on Friday, CSUB could have picked up its third consecutive victory.
But the third-seeded Roadrunners lost to No. 2 Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 69-58, in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, ending their season.
“Ah man, I couldn’t answer that for you,” McCall said. “I really can’t because they worked hard. It was just one of those things, it didn’t happen this year. And I saw that, and we tried to fix different things and do different things to make sure we tried to overcome that obstacle but we just couldn’t do it this year.”
CSUB (14-17, 9-7 WAC) took control of the game in the third quarter. The Roadrunners rattled off 13 straight points for a nine-point lead with about two minutes left.
The Vaqueros (18-13, 10-6 WAC), though, outscored the Roadrunners 11-1 in the final two minutes of the third. They scored 10 in a row to open the fourth to lead by 11 with about six minutes to go in the game.
“Basketball is a game of runs so we knew they were going to try to make a push once we made our push,” CSUB redshirt senior JJ Johnson said, “and unfortunately we just weren't able to sustain it.”
When everything was going well for the Roadrunners, it was Johnson and the defense leading the way. She picked off an inbounds pass and drove the length of the court for a layup that gave CSUB a 38-36 lead.
The 13-0 CSUB run spanned more than six minutes. UTRGV didn’t score for more than seven minutes and turned the ball over five times.
Johnson finished with 15 points and four steals.
When the Vaqueros did respond, they did so quickly. In a matter of six minutes, 52 seconds, they outscored CSUB by 20. UTRGV used backdoor cuts to get open looks at the basket and knocked down its 3-pointers.
The Vaqueros shot 80 percent from the field in the fourth quarter. CSUB shot 16.7 percent.
“The ball didn’t fall our way,” McCall said. “We missed some easy shots, made some defensive mistakes. That’s all part of the game. You just don’t want that to happen, but that’s part of the game.”
Coming into the tournament, McCall was thought that a team that was sporadic throughout the regular season — looking like one of the best in the WAC one game yet falling to one of the worst the next — could capture the title.
Three games in four days, he said, could help his squad avoid a letdown because it wouldn’t have a lengthy break between performances.
That didn’t come to fruition.
CSUB senior guard Alexxus Gilbert went from hitting seven of 12 3-pointers in the team’s first-round win over Grand Canyon to missing all eight of her long-range attempts in the semifinal.
The Roadrunners went from dominating the Lopes for a plus-10 advantage in rebounds to getting outrebounded by 12 by UTRGV. Their 47.6 percent 3-point shooting performance against GCU dropped to 6.3 percent against the Vaqueros.
CSUB didn’t make it back to the championship game for the second year in a row as a result.
“That’s one of the hurdles we couldn't overcome,” McCall said.