SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Chico State toughed out a 77-71 win against California Baptist in the opening round of the NCAA championship tournament West Regional on Friday night at Coussoulis Arena.
The Wildcats made it tough on themselves early with turnovers and poor transition defense and 15 minutes in trailed by 15. Chico State toughened up with the ball and in transition for the final 25 to pull out its second NCAA tournament win in three years.It had just one championships tournament win in the 96 years prior.
"I'm extremely proud of these guys. We displayed an extra amount of toughness tonight fighting and clawing our way back in it from down 15," Wildcats head coach Greg Clink said. "Our second-half effort defensively is really what led us to victory. The last 10 minutes of the game, from a toughness standpoint, we were really good."
If you haven't figured it out yet, the theme: Toughness.
"They defended us hard," California Baptist head coach Rick Croy said. "Chico's got an explosive team and they made some tough shots tonight."
Rashad Parker certainly did. He stroked home a number of contested 3s, first to get the Wildcats back into the game and eventually to give them the lead for good. His sixth triple with 3:51 left erased the Lancers' last lead of the night.
Jordan Semple rebounded a miss on the other end and went coast-to-coast, converting a stunning spinning layup. Jordan Barton's follow dunk with 49 seconds left made it a five-point edge and then Amir Carraway collected a pair of free throws to finish it.
Semple and Parker poured in 20 points apiece. Semple secured a dozen rebounds and Parker made 6 of 8 3s. Carraway contributed 14 points. Chris Magalotti and Barton buoyed the Wildcats off the bench, combining for 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Chico State will play California Collegiate Athletic Association foe and tournament host Cal State San Bernardino in the regional semifinal on Saturday.
The Wildcats committed 10 first-half turnovers Friday, just one shy of their per-game average, and allowed a number of baskets in transition to fall behind by 15.
Closing the half on a 15-6 run gave them life, however.
Carraway started the push with a three-point play and Parker hit three 3s in the last four minutes before intermission.
The Wildcats continued to whittle away at the lead in the opening minutes of the second half and gained their first advantage of the second half on a Parker triple with 12 minutes left.
The lead changed hands 10 times during the next eight minutes.
The Wildcats held Pacific West Conference Player of the Year Ryan Berg to three points and without a 3-pointer in the second half after he scored 15 in the first, hitting 4-of-5 from well beyond the arc.
"I'm tired of talking about Berg. I've been talking about him for two hours," Clink quipped. "He's a great player."
Berg was 0-for-6 from 3-point range as Parker, Giordano Estrada and Mike Rosaroso took turns tailing him. California Baptist, 17-0 at one point this season, finished the season 24-4.
Chico State improved to 23-7, matching their third highest win total in the program's history.