MEN'S BASKETBALL LOOKS TO SWEEP SEASON SERIES ON WEDNESDAY AGAINST MONTANA
A Brief Preview
In the middle of a three-game road trip, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team (8-15, 3-7) returns to the hardwood for a game at Montana on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Tipoff at Dahlberg Arena is set for 6:05 p.m. PST. The Hornets defeated Montana earlier this year in Sacramento, 80-72. That victory gave Sacramento State a 7-8 overall record and a 2-1 mark in the Big Sky. Since that time, however, the Hornets have lost seven of their last eight games and six of those losses have come by double digits.
Wednesday’s game marks the first of a back-to-back for Sacramento State as the team will travel to Bozeman, Mont., for a contest on Thursday against Montana State. Wednesday and Thursday will mark the second back-to-back scenario the Hornets will face since Big Sky play began. Sacramento State split its last back-to-back, losing to Eastern Washington on Jan. 25 before defeating Portland State at home on Jan. 26. Sacramento State and Weber State are the only two teams in the Big Sky that have been asked to play a pair of back-to-backs this season.
Despite a 3-7 conference record, the Hornets are only two games back of a Big Sky Tournament playoff spot with six games remaining on the regular season schedule. The top six teams in the nine-member league advance to the postseason. Sacramento State is one of just three teams to reach the Big Sky Tournament each of the last four years (Montana and Eastern Washington are the others). Portland State currently owns the sixth spot in the Big Sky standings with a 6-6 record, and the Hornets own the tiebreaker over PSU by virtue of their victory over the Vikings on Jan. 26.
During the Hornets’ last eight games, in which they have won once, the team has struggled in three of the most important aspects of basketball – offense, defense and rebounding. During the eight-game span, Sacramento State is shooting just 39.2 percent (206-526) from the field while allowing the opposition to shoot 55.4 percent (236-426). In addition, the team is being outrebounded by exactly 12 boards per game (42.4-30.4) and opponents are shooting 43.7 percent (45-103) from beyond the arc. Four of the losses during the slide have come at home against Big Sky competition.
Since the loss to Sacramento State on Jan. 4, Montana has won five of its last seven games. The Grizzlies (12-11, 6-4) are in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Sky standings with Idaho State, Montana State and Northern Arizona. The Griz are 21-5 all-time against the Hornets. Since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, the Hornets’ only victory in Missoula came during the 2004 Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals.
Sacramento State returns to the scene of one of the more controversial scoring errors in recent memory. Last year’s game in Missoula between the Grizzlies and Hornets ended in a strange fashion as Montana’s scorekeeper failed to credit DaShawn Freeman with a free throw late in the second half. The Hornets drew to within one point (80-79) of the Grizzlies’ lead with 11 seconds left, and were forced to foul on Montana’s ensuing possession. Had the point in question been properly credited, Clark Woods’ three-pointer would have tied the game instead of Sacramento State being down a point. University of Montana Athletics Director Jim O’Day sent a letter of apology to Sacramento State later that week acknowledging the critical scoring error.
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. Montana
Senior Haron Hargrave scored a team-high 17 points and junior Kris Groce made his Hornet debut with a game-high 10 assists and three steals to lead Sacramento State to an 80-72 victory on Jan. 4 at the Nest.
The Hornets shot 49.0 percent (25-51) from the field and forced the two-time defending Big Sky Tournament champions into 19 turnovers, as Sacramento State avenged two losses to the Grizzlies last year that came by a combined seven points.
Montana scored the first five points of the game before the Hornets responded with an 8-0 run and never trailed the rest of the way. A three-pointer from sophomore Loren Leath gave Sacramento State an 8-5 lead with 14:17 left in the first half, and the Hornets led the rest of the game, a span which included the final 34:17 of the contest.
Groce ran the Hornet offense for all but 10 minutes of the game and finished with 10 assists, the most by a Sacramento State player this season. He also added five points and three steals.
Joining Hargrave in double figures for the Hornets were senior Alex Bausley (16 points, four rebounds, three steals), junior Angel Alamo (15 points, six rebounds, 11-for-11 from the free throw line) and Leath (12 points, 5-of-10 shooting). Four of Alamo’s 11 makes from the free throw line came during the final 15 seconds to help ice the game.
Thanks in large part to a good amount of open looks with Groce running the show, Sacramento State shot 49.0 percent (25-51) from the field, 57.1 percent (8-14) from the three-point line and 73.3 percent (22-30) from the free throw line. The Grizzlies shot 47.4 percent (27-57) from the field, but just 55.0 percent (11-20) from the charity stripe.
Montana carved Sacramento State’s game-high 19 point lead (55-36 with 14:19 to play) to four points on a pair of occasions during the final minute of the game. However, the Hornets made 7-of-10 free throws during the final 46 seconds (including each of their last six attempts) to keep Montana from getting any closer than four points.
Montana was led by Andrew Strait’s game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Last year’s first team all-Big Sky selection finished the game 9-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. Jordan Hasquet and Bryan Ellis each finished with 13 points to round out the Grizzlies in double figures.
Sacramento State's complete set of game notes can be accessed by clicking on the link above the story.