Dedrick Basile came over a ball screen at the top of the key and did his best Buddy Hield impression. He pulled up for a 3-pointer in the final second of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
Basile’s jumper pushed Cal St. Bakersfield to an upset victory against top-seeded New Mexico State and the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. And now Basile will face Hield.
“It was our night. It was our turn. It was our time,” Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said to reporters after his team’s championship win. “We talked about this since last year. I’m just so thankful to be a part of this team. . . . They are a special group of guys. It has been a fantastic year.”
The Roadrunners moved to Division I in 2007 after winning three Division II titles in the mid-90s. Before the championship game, the Roadrunners lost twice to New Mexico State in the regular season.
Before Saturday night, Bakersfield had never even played in a WAC Tournament championship game. But the Roadrunners have won six straight games and 10 of the last 11. They have lost to just one team not named New Mexico State since Dec. 28.
Kruger and even Oklahoma would know.
While at Florida, Kruger coached against Barnes when he was the Rebels’ head coach since 1998-2006. He led Ole Miss to the Sweet 16 in 2001. This has been Barnes’ best season since then. Barnes was fired after the 2006-07 season after the Rebels lost 13 of their final 14 games.
Barnes then was an assistant at Oklahoma during the 2006-07 season, helping the Sooners to 16-15 record in the first year under Jeff Capel.
The Roadrunners (24-8) have three players averaging at least 12 points per game and four players averaging in double figures. They lack size though, starting just one player, Aly Ahmed, who is taller than 6-foot-4. Ahmed is 6-foot-9 and is averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Basile, the team’s 5-10 starting point guard who is from Houston, averages 12 points and 3.6 assists. Kevin Mays is the team’s leading rebounder (8 per game) despite being 6-4 and averages 12.5 points per game.
“This team is a great team,” Mays said. “We are definitely going to make some noise in the tournament. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”