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WAC Wednesday: A week where Damiyne Durham, Utah Valley both ride streaks

Plus power rankings.

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time this season, CSU Bakersfield just couldn’t close its hand around a major road win.

Like in its opener against TCU, the ‘Runners had a talented-but-still-growing USC team on the ropes in its home gym. CSUB held a seven-point lead midway through the second half before a 25-5 Trojans’ blitz plucked away a statement in-state win. Rod Barnes was realistic about how things turned out in Southern California afterwards.

“For 30 minutes there we controlled the game and kind of contained what [USC] was doing,” [said Barnes in a release]. “But when you are playing against a team that good, you can expect that they are going to make a run. It just happened at the wrong time for us tonight...I’m proud of our guys and proud of the effort we played with tonight.”

The ‘Runners didn’t find themselves in position for an upset because of a particularly robust offensive showing. Jarkel Joiner and Rickey Holden both had largely forgettable nights scoring the ball. And while it was skewed by that final run, CSUB’s normally stout defense allowed the Trojans to shoot a healthy 63.3 percent from within the three-point arc.

Instead, CSUB threatened a PAC-12 school on the back of its ultra-streaky wing.

Damiyne Durham was at his peak distillation against USC. He lit up the Trojans in the first half for 16 points, propelling CSUB to a halftime lead. For the game, he scored 22 points including making six-of-12 from distance. It was the type of quick-strike, explosive offensive game from Durham that makes him such a potent X-factor for CSUB. And it’s only a part of an increasingly intriguing ‘Runners equation because Barnes and Durham have had patience with one another.

In a 2017 interview, Barnes talked about what snagging Durham meant after his transfer from Baylor.

“When you sign kid like him, it gives a program a sense of confidence,” Barnes said. “He was recruited by a lot of good people once he left Baylor. He was a huge get for us as a 6’5’’ guard, you don’t find that size at the mid-major level. He’s a freak of nature.”

It might have been tempting for Barnes to compromise for a player like that, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case over the past two years. Durham was not present at the Blue-Gold Scrimmage in October, and last season was suspended briefly in mid January. Barnes discussed that situation at the time with Bakersfield.com.

“He’s got to do the things that we need done in our program for him to continue to obviously be in our program,” Barnes said. “We won’t sacrifice or compromise what we do in our program. He’s been, kind of been on the edges of that and that doesn’t bode well for him. That doesn’t bode well for us at this particular point.”

Durham wasn’t involved in a crime or violent incident, Barnes said, but has not followed through with what is expected of a leader on the team.

“It’s just small things and detail things that upperclassmen need to take care of, need to show leadership and he hasn’t done that,” Barnes said. “... He hasn’t done that lately at the level or the standard I would like him to do.”

For Durham’s part, he did not bolt from Bakersfield, and has seemingly not taken issue with being used primarily off the bench during his career. The player, coach and program have stuck together, and with Durham enjoying his best statistical season to this point (13.4 PPG, 41.9 3P%), the ‘Runners are that much more dangerous a team.

Utah Valley lengthens two winning streaks, is just fine

The Wolverines have stabilized with a deceptively difficult three-game road swing in the rear view mirror. As the schedule eased up, consecutive wins at the MGM Resorts Main Event followed by a home win over North Dakota suddenly have UVU riding a three-game winning streak.

In the process, they extended the third-longest home winning streak in the country at 16 games.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope [after the North Dakota win]. “Winning 16 straight games at home is not easy. There are only four other teams in the country right now to reach that mark. We plan on keeping the streak alive here at the UCCU Center. We were good on the glass tonight but we just didn’t have the energy tonight. We’re just happy to keep the streak alive. This home court has been magic for us and we plan on keeping it going.”

The last home loss came in the much-anticipated game against BYU last season. While the streak does include a pair of non-Division I victims, there is some respectable heft to it. There was the seven-point win last February against a New Mexico State team that was sporting an 11-game winning streak and, at the time, legitimate at-large resume. Beyond that, UVU has sprinkled in top-174 KenPom wins against Weber State, UTSA, Cal State Fullerton and Grand Canyon during that stretch.

Jake Toolson has the been the most recent catalyst to keeping that streak alive, as the reigning WAC Player of the Week had an efficient night (17 points, 4-9 FG, 6 rebounds) in the win over the Fighting Hawks. Some of UVU’s potential, however, is tied to well-traveled graduate transfer center Connor MacDougall.

Despite stops at Arizona State and New Mexico, with a one-season stint at a junior college sprinkled in, MacDougall simply hasn’t played much Division I college basketball since emerging as a highly-recruited prep prospect in 2014. Injuries have been a factor, but MacDougall only logged minutes of consequence (10.0 MPG) in one season over his Division I career. That was at New Mexico in 2016-17, and Mark Pope talked about how MacDougall isn’t your typical graduate transfer in the offseason.

“Connor is an extraordinary talent with a very high ceiling,” said Pope. “We expect him to have an immediate impact on our program. He is a veteran player with a ton of experience under his belt. Connor has already proven he is capable (of) playing at the highest level. Normally, you think of graduate transfers as finished products, but Connor still has a lot of growth left in him. We could not be more excited for Connor to join our roster.”

A workmanlike eight points and four rebounds in 19 minutes against North Dakota may not make anyone jump out of their pants. But it was MacDougall’s best game this season — notwithstanding the opener against a non-Division I opponent — and the most minutes he’d logged. At this point, MacDougall is on the court and contributing, and if there is greater growth in his game, the Wolverines will continue to be a tough out in Orem.

If you’ve stuck around this long...

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Team Record Previous What They've Done Well
Team Record Previous What They've Done Well
New Mexico State 4-1 1 Jemerrio Jones is gone, but the Aggies are still cleaning the defensive glass at the best rate in the country.
Grand Canyon 4-3 2 Carlos Johnson (16 points) was aggressive against La Salle, and that may be a key ingredient for the Lopes.
Seattle 6-2 3 Myles Carter's rim protecting prowess has helped the SU defense absorb the loss of Aaron Menzies.
CSU Bakersfield 3-3 4 It's time for the 'Runners to close out a road win, and have a chance for a solid one at South Dakota on Dec. 1.
Utah Valley 4-3 5 UVU is yet again shooting the three at a blistering rate (39.2%) as a team.
UTRGV 5-3 6 It's not yet December, and the Vaqueros own two wins against a rival (Texas A&M Corpus Christi).
UMKC 1-6 7 Roos were oh-so-close against Eastern Washington and Drake, but go back on the road for more three more tough games.
Cal Baptist 2-4 8 Lancers have dropped back-to-back winnable games, but have more opportunities upcoming.
Chicago State 0-8 9 Cougars should get Lance Irvin's first, and a well-deserved, win on Thursday against East West.