BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
The Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team will have to wait a little longer for its first win of the season.
Despite a solid all-around effort, the 'Runners suffered a heartbreaking 76-73 loss to Loyola Marymount on Saturday night at the Icardo Center.
CSUB (0-4) fought back from a 16-point first-half deficit to lead for a big chunk of the second half.
But the Lions were ultimately able to prevail thanks to Godwin Okonji's put-back with 24 seconds remaining in the game.
"I thought it was a game that helped our team get better," CSUB coach Rod Barnes said. "Obviously we're disappointed with the loss but that's what you want to do this time of the year.”
Okoonji’s game-winning basket came seconds after it appeared his teammate, Ashley Hamilton, committed a traveling violation.
“They’re human,” Barnes said of the referees. “They miss calls. We miss plays. … But at that particular point it’s a frustrating situation.”
Trailing 75-73, the ’Runners’ last offensive possession came up empty when Stephon Carter had his off-balance shot from the top of the key partially blocked with just a handful of ticks left on the clock.
That did little to take the shine off a big game by Carter, who had a team-high 22 points with six rebounds.
“To lose, period, is tough, but like our coach we got to take the positives out of this loss,” Carter said. “We’ve been playing better every game. We’ve gotten better as a group. Of course you want to come out and win but as we keep growing and watching film we’ve seen we’re getting better as a team. And that’s all we can ask for.”
LMU (2-1) was paced by Anthony Ireland’s 26 points. The 5-foot-10 point guard also had nine rebounds and seven assists.
CSUB shot 50-percent from the floor, compared to 42.6 percent for the Lions. However, LMU had the upper hand in two key statistical categories, outrebounding the ’Runners 36-27 and making nine more free throws (20-11).
With the win. LMU improves to 8-1 all-time against CSUB.
The game’s momentum swung back and forth several times as each team made big runs. The most pivotal to the ’Runners chances came early in the second half when they quickly went from being down 41-35 to up 49-48.
Javante Maynor spurred the ’Runners surge with three 3-pointers within a three-minute stretch. Maynor finished with 12 points, all of them coming from shots beyond the arc.
Adam Young, who also made four 3’s, matched Maynor’s 12 points.
Down 27-11 after a 21-4 LMU run, CSUB closed out the first half strong and trailed 39-35 at halftime.
The comeback was spurred by the ’Runners pressure defense, which created several easy transition baskets.
The Lions early success came due in large part to their hot shooting from the outside. LMU was 5-of-9 from three-point range in the first half.
Carter had 14 points in the first half, including 11 during the final 7:25 before intermission as CSUB fought back to within striking distance.
“We’re a resilient team,” Carter said. “All the games we were down, we always fought back and showed some type of fight. And that’s what we build our team off of, being resilient. We just have to start off with that same type of mentality.”
Despite being down by four, CSUB outshot LMU 48-percent to 40.6-percent from the field during the first 20 minutes.
However, the Lions took seven more attempts than the 'Runners (32-25).
CSUB returns to action Tuesday night in a home game against Westmont.