On November 7th, the smallest player on the court made the biggest impact in the season-opener game. Kaleb Higgins, a fast and dynamic 5-foot-10 guard for Cal State Bakersfield, scored an impressive 27 points, including the crucial game-winning free throw with less than a second remaining. This dramatic play led the Roadrunners to a thrilling 73-72 victory over Southern Utah at the Icardo Center.
“He’s really stepped up his game,” said CSUB coach Rod Barnes, whose team faces USC next. “Tonight, he played exceptionally well, especially on offense. We relied on him a lot, and he delivered. He’s been showing this level of play in practice and scrimmages, so it’s no surprise to the coaches or players. We hope other players step up more in the future, but a win is a win.”
This game marked Higgins’ return since suffering a torn meniscus in January, which ended his season as the team’s leading scorer (13.1 average points per game).
“I’ve been working hard to get back into form,” Higgins said. “My coaches and teammates believe in me, so knocking down those free throws was easy with their support.”
Higgins’ impressive night included 11 field goals out of 23 attempts and four successful free throws, making him the sole Roadrunner player in double-digit scoring.
“Returning to the court after 10 months was amazing,” Higgins said. “I missed it and even got a bit emotional when I stepped on the court. It was a lot of fun today.”
With Higgins leading the offense, CSUB surged ahead in the second half, turning a two-point deficit into a commanding 13-point lead.
However, the Thunderbirds fought back and took a 72-71 lead with a 3-pointer by Dominique Ford. This set the stage for Higgins’ heroic finish.
“He’s a clutch performer,” Barnes remarked. “We knew we had to get the ball in his hands down the stretch. We had to give him the chance to win the game for us. We thought we had it in the bag until they hit that 3 at the end. Then, it was obvious we had to rely on him again.”
In the final sequence, the Roadrunners orchestrated a play after a timeout with 14.9 seconds left, and once again, Higgins was the centerpiece of the plan.
Laura Davis covers the world of basketball with precision. Her articles explore NBA and college basketball, offering game analysis, player profiles, and highlights. Laura’s passion for hoops is evident in her comprehensive basketball coverage.