CSU Bakersfield had played New Mexico State 11 times in men's basketball, and 11 times the Roadrunners lost.
But there's a first time for everything, and for CSUB it came on March 12 this year, when the Roadrunners beat the Aggies for the first time and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Junior Dedrick Basile’s three-pointer over Pascal Siakam, the WAC's Player of the Year, with 0.2 seconds remaining gave the Roadrunners a 57-54 victory, the sports moment judged the greatest in CSUB's sports history.
"That's something I always dreamed about," Basile said, "and it just happened."
The Roadrunners won three national championships in Division II, but capped their best Division I season by going to the Big Dance.
"It was our night, our turn, our time," said CSUB's Rod Barnes, the WAC Coach of the Year. "It's been a fantastic year."
The Roadrunners entered the tournament as a 15 seed and faced Oklahoma in the first round, a tall task.
“I just think if we're us and the scrappy, annoying team that we are, and we get after it on the defensive end, that's our best chance of winning this game,” said senior forward Kevin Mays. “I just think we can't get away from what got us here. I feel like if everybody plays their role that we'll come out victorious. “
Scrappy and annoying, the Roadrunners jumped to an 8-0 lead against the No. 2-seeded Sooners. Senior center Aly Ahmed cut Oklahoma's 10-point lead to 41-34 with a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
CSUB's 12-7 run to open the second half cut Oklahoma's lead to 58-56, but the Roadrunners couldn't keep up and the Sooners won, 82-68.
“These are my sons and I’m very proud,” Barnes said after the game. “Their season and what they’ve gone through and what they’ve done for our administration, for our university, for our city, and I’m just proud of them.”
Ahmed, a member of Egypt's national team finished with 16 points in his final game.
“It’s a really good feeling to see the program come all the way to this point and finally make it to the NCAA,” he said. “I promised myself that I wanted to be in the NCAA before I go back home and these guys made it come true and I couldn’t thank them any more. I love them all.”
On the cover: CSU Bakersfield celebrates its victory in the WAC Tournament Championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance. (Courtesy CSUB Athletics)
Above: Video courtesy CSUB Athletics via YouTube