March 22, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas -- CSU Bakersfield used a late run in the first half to post an 80-76 win over UTA men's basketball in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament, played in front of 6,336 on Wednesday night at College Park Center.
UTA (27-9) saw its record-setting season end a step shy of advancing to the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden. Paced by the Sun Belt Conference Coach (Scott Cross) and Player of the Year (Kevin Hervey), the Mavs set a program record with 27 wins en route to their first regular-season conference championship in the Sun Belt.
CSU Bakersfield (25-9) used a 23-9 run over the final seven minutes of the half to take a 16-point lead into halftime. UTA's furious rally in the second half fell just short as the Roadrunners outlasted the Mavs as a 12-point advantage was all the ground UTA could make up in the second stanza.
CSUB held the Mavs to 36-percent shooting from the field, winning the battle on the glass, 33-32, owning a 41-19 advantage in bench points and limiting the Mavs to just eight three pointers in 29 attempts. The Roadrunner finished the game leading all but 48 seconds.
The Roadrunners snapped UTA's 15-game home winning streak and handed the Mavs their first loss at home in 15 tries during a historic 2016-17 campaign.
The Mavs opened their run in the NIT with a 105-89 win at BYU in the first round, the first postseason win in program history. UTA then won its first home postseason game in program annals with an 85-69 win on Monday night over Akron, a 27-win regular-season champion of the Mid-American Conference.
The crowd of 6,336 on Wednesday marked the second-largest basketball crowd in College Park Center history.
The stifling defense of the Roadrunners held the Mavs to 22 made field goals, forced 12 turnovers and surrendered just 12 UTA assists. Only Hervey and Erick Neal reached double figures, with Neal charting a 22-point, five-assist game and Hervey adding 15 points and eight boards. Senior Drew Charles added eight points and junior guard Kaelon Wilson finished with seven points. Senior forward Jorge Bilbao grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, adding five points. Nathan Hawkins also added seven points, with Faith Pope chipping in six points.
The teams traded defensive stops and missed shots over the first three minutes until Matt Smith got CSUB on the board first with a bucket. On the following possession, Wilson answered with an off-balance jumper in the lane, getting fouled and sinking the opportunity from the charity stripe for the first lead of the game. After a Roadrunner three pointer, Wilson accelerated in transition, beating the defense to the rim for an easy lay-in. On the next possession, Hervey swatted a shot that found Wilson in transition for the breakaway dunk and a 7-5 lead. CSUB answered with five straight points, before UTA got a pair from the charity stripe from Neal and a one-handed slam from Link Kabadyundi. The next three possessions saw made three pointers from Faith Pope and two from the Road Runners to build a 19-14 lead at the under 12-minute timeout.
Charles helped swing the momentum to the side of the Mavs with a pair of three pointers, cutting the lead to 22-20 after Bilbao found Charles on the wing after an offensive rebound. CSUB then went on a 10-0 run, getting a pair of triples to stretch its lead to 34-22 as the clock went under five minutes in the half. A 23-9 run for CSUB closed the half in a 45-29 game. Wilson led UTA with seven points at the break but CSUB's defense limited the Mavs to 37 percent from the field and held Hervey to 1-of-6 shooting and just two points.
The Roadrunners built their lead to 19 out of the break, with Hervey scoring five straight for the Mavs to cut the lead to 51-34 with just over 16 minutes remaining in regulation. The Mavs started to crawl back, getting to within 56-45 as the clock ticked under 12 minutes, on the strength of a Pope three from the corner. After the under 12-minute timeout, Neal hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 58-47.
UTA forced a turnover with 10:43 left in the period and Bilbao was fouled on the offensive end, hitting one from the free-throw line to get the lead to 10 points, 58-48. Just when UTA's rally was gaining traction, the Mavs fouled CSUB's Shon Briggs on a desperation three as the shot-clock expired, falling behind 63-48 as Briggs nailed all three free throws. After snagging an offensive rebound on a Nathan Hawkins miss, Hervey was fouled and hit both free throws to once again cut the lead to 10 points, 63-53 at the under eight-minute timeout.
With 6:20 left in regulation, Hervey was fouled while fighting for an offensive rebound on a missed shot from Charles in transition. He made just one to get the lead down to nine points. CSUB again got a bucket late in the shot clock to take its lead to 11 but Neal answered with a contested three-pointer, with Cross taking a timeout immediately, trailing 67-59. After a Bilbao steal on the defensive end, he cleaned up a Hervey miss for an offensive rebound and putback to cut the lead to 67-61.
UTA's turnover on the offensive end led to an intentional foul with 4:13 left, with the Roadrunners sinking both free throws for a 69-61 lead and getting jumper late in the shot clock, a four-point swing and giving CSUB a 71-61 lead, with the Mavs scoring drought reaching nearly three minutes before Neal hit a pair of free throws with 2:16 left. Neal's jumper with 63 seconds remaining snapped UTA's streak without a field goal at four minutes. Neal hit a triple with 24 seconds remaining to give him 20 points.
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