BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer email@example.com
History will show Cal State Bakersfield never trailed in its 84-79 win over Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday night.
But Omaha gave the Roadrunners all they could handle and was in a position to pull out a win until some late CSUB free throws put the game away.
"If we make free throws, we don't get in that position," CSUB coach Rod Barnes said after the Roadrunners improved to 7-13.
Bakersfield was only 11-of-20 on free throws until going 6-for-6 in the final 26 seconds.
It was CSUB's first game in 10 days.
"We'll take a win when we can get it," said CSUB senior guard Tyrone White, who had 16 points and four 3-pointers, many at critical times.
Omaha, in its second year of transition from Division II to Division I, is 5-16.
"It's a game we're supposed to win for sure," said junior guard Brandon Barnes, Rod Barnes' son, who also had 16 points and led all players with nine rebounds. "They were hot in the second half but we've got to play better defense."
Omaha was limited to 38 percent shooting in the first half, which was dominated by the Roadrunners. CSUB led 39-24 at halftime.
But the Mavericks hit 61 percent of their shots in the second half, including 8-of-15 on 3s.
They never caught up, but they pulled within three on three occasions inside the final 35 seconds.
CSUB's Javonte Maynor, who had a game-high 17 points, sank two free throws with 15 seconds left and backup guard Matthew Ratto, who didn’t play in the second half until entering with 31 seconds remaining, was 4-for-4 on free throws in the final 26 seconds to help the Roadrunners hang on.
“Matt Ratto is clutch,” White said. “I love Matt. He’s my roommate. He’s my guy. I knew he’d come through. That’s why I passed him the ball.”
Despite Omaha’s 5-16 record and recent arrival to D-I basketball, the Roadrunners knew they needed to score more points than their 65.1 per game average.
“If you look at the way they shoot the ball overall, they’re a great shooting team,” Rod Barnes said. “If you look at their 3-point and field-goal percentage, they’re one of the better teams we’ve faced when you look at their percentage.
“We knew we had to score points and we did that. But you’re never happy when you give up that kind of percentage (the 61 percent in the second half).”
Guard Justin Simmons and center John Karhoff led Omaha with 14 points each. It was Simmons who sank two straight 3-pointers with less than three minutes to play that kept the Mavericks close.
“I thought we had great intensity,” Rod Barnes said. “But I thought late in the game we lost that intensity because we hadn’t played in 10 days. Our game conditioning was a little down.
“You give these guys open shots and they’re pretty much going to go down.”
CSUB senior guard Stephon Carter, the team’s top scorer at 15.6 per game, was held to nine points. That leaves him 50 points from becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer.
The Roadrunners travel to Santa Clara on Wednesday then don’t play again until hosting Utah Valley on Feb. 2.