MISSOULA, Mont. --- Derek Lambeth scored a game-high 24 points and freshman DaShawn Freeman added 18 to lead Sacramento State to an 88-75 victory over Montana in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament Saturday night at Dahlberg Arena.
Senior Derek Lambeth led all players with 24 points.
The win improved the Hornets to 12-16 overall and moves the team into the Big Sky Tournament semifinals where it will meet top-seeded Weber State on Tuesday, March 11. The Grizzlies dropped to 13-17 and lost to Sacramento State for just the second time in school history.
Montana controlled the game for the opening 10 minutes. The Grizzlies made their first five field goals and took advantage of four Hornet turnovers to claim a 12-4 lead with 16:00 left. Sacramento State was able to respond and slowly chipped away at the deficit before taking a 16-15 edge on a jumper by Lambeth at the 9:52 mark. From that point, Sacramento State never lost the lead and was able to fight off numerous comeback attempts by Montana.
The Hornets led, 46-35, at halftime and scored the first six points of the second half to take a 16-point advantage (51-36). The Grizzlies pulled within six, 53-46, on a free throw by Sam Riddle before Jimmy White turned the momentum in favor of the Hornets with a two-handed dunk. Lambeth followed with a three-pointer to push the lead back to 11 before Montana fought its way back within six points.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Freeman and Brandon Guyton and a pair of free throws from Freeman made the score 80-65 with just over four minutes to play, essentially sealing the game.
Sacramento State, who struggled from the field in two regular-season losses against the Grizzlies, made 29-of-61 field goals, including 7-of-17 from the behind the arc. Leading the way was Lambeth who recorded his third-straight game of 20 or more points. The senior was 8-of-16 overall, 3-of-6 from three-point range and 5-of-9 at the free-throw line.
Freeman, who was forced to play 27 minutes due to the fact that Raashad Hooks was in foul trouble for most of the game, was 4-of-7 from the floor and 9-of-13 at the line. The true freshman also added four assists.
Guyton found his way into double figures with 13 points and Jimmy White contributed 10.
Defensively, the Hornets were able to outrebound Montana, 46-35. The team was guided by junior Cedric Thompkins with nine boards. Hooks added eight rebounds, while Lambeth and White each had six.
Sacramento State also did a nice job shutting down David Bell and Kevin Criswell, Montanaâ€™s top two scorers. Bell, who shared Big Sky Player of the Week honors with Lambeth this week, was just 2-of-13 from the floor, including 1-of-6 from long range. Criswell ended the game with 22 points but made only five of 15 field goals. The Big Sky Freshman of the Year did make 11 free throws.
As a team, Montana was 23-of-59 overall (.390). The team, however, never found its touch from outside, making 3-of-20 treys (.150).