MEN'S BASKETBALL CONCLUDES HOMESTAND WEDNESDAY VS. NORTHERN COLORADO
A Brief Preview
Coming off its most important victory of the season last Friday against Portland State, the Sacramento State men’s basketball squad (8-13, 3-5) concludes its season-long three game homestand on Wednesday, Jan. 31, against Northern Colorado at 7:05 p.m. The Hornets snapped a season-worst five game losing streak with a 97-93 win over Portland State, and more importantly, stayed in the hunt for a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth.
One of three teams to reach the Big Sky Tournament each of the last four years (Montana and Eastern Washington are the others), Sacramento State is now just one game back of a playoff spot, and amazingly, two games out of second place. In what has turned into a logjam in the Big Sky standings, only two games separate the three second place teams (Montana, Idaho State and Northern Arizona) and the eighth-place Hornets (3-5). Portland State, Eastern Washington and Montana State are each tied for fifth place with .500 conference records.
Wednesday’s matchup will be the only Big Sky contest of the night as four more games will be played on Thursday, Feb. 1. The Hornets are at the midway point of the conference season, and after Wednesday, Sacramento State will embark upon a grueling three-game road trip that spans just six days. Included in that road trip are games against Montana and Montana State on back-to-back days (Feb. 7-8). After Wednesday, five the Hornets’ final seven games will be on the road making a win against Northern Colorado even more crucial.
Five Hornets scored in double figures against Portland State, including 23 from sophomore Loren Leath and 20 from junior Kris Groce. Sacramento State shot 50.8 percent (31-61) from the field, and buried a season-high tying 11 three-pointers. After shooting under 37.0 percent from the field in four consecutive games, the Hornets have improved their accuracy over the last two games, averaging 91.0 points on .481 shooting (65-135) over that span.
Entering its first year in the Big Sky, Northern Colorado (3-19, 1-9) has not played nearly as bad as its record would indicate. In fact, the Bears have lost five Big Sky games by four points or less, including a 74-70 setback at home to Sacramento State on Dec. 30. Three of those five losses came by just one point. It took a Justin Williams dunk with 10 seconds remaining to assure the Hornets of their win over the Bears earlier this year. Northern Colorado has struggled on the road this season, losing all 11 games away from home. Nine of those 11 losses have come by at least nine points.
Wednesday’s game will be broadcast live on KSAC 1240 AM, hornetsports.com and bigskytv.org with Steve McElroy calling all the action. McElroy is in his 10th season as radio voice of Hornet basketball.
Last Game vs. Northern Colorado
A spinning dunk from junior Justin Williams with one second on the shot clock and 10 seconds remaining on the game clock sparked Sacramento State to a 74-70 victory over Northern Colorado last Saturday at the Butler-Hancock Pavilion.
With the Hornets leading, 72-70, and three seconds remaining on the shot clock, senior Haron Hargrave threw an inbounds pass to Williams, who spun around two Bear defenders before throwing down a slam to give the Hornets a 74-70 lead. Northern Colorado missed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, and Sacramento State walked away with its first Big Sky victory of the season.
The Hornets, who never trailed during the final 38:19 of the contest, shot 40 percent from both the field (23-57) and three-point line (6-15) while outscoring the Bears, 15-3, in points off turnovers.
Sacramento State, which held a game high 15-point lead early in the first half (26-11 with 7:02 remaining), could never pull away from Northern Colorado in the second half. After a layup from Northern Colorado’s Sean Taibi tied the game at 54-54 with 11:59 remaining the in the contest, Sacramento State responded with a jumper from Williams and led by no more then five points the remainder of the game. Perhaps one of the biggest plays of the game came on defense, as junior Davon Roberts blocked a breakaway lay-up attempt from Terry Anderson with 1:45 left which would have tied the game.
Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by Hargrave’s 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal. Joining Hargrave in double figures for the Hornets were Bausley (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Leath (14 points, eight during the final 8:12 of the game) and Williams (10 points, four rebounds, two blocked shots).
Northern Colorado’s Kirk Archibeque led all players with 24 points, and Taibi added 17 to round out the Bears with double-figure points. Northern Colorado struggled badly from the free throw line, converting just 19-of-34 attempts (55.9 percent), including 7-of-18 in the second half. Conversely, Sacramento State shot 68.8 percent (22-32) from the free throw line.
For Sacramento State''s complete set of game notes, click on the link above the story.