NORTHERN COLORADO USES 8-0 RUN TO CLOSE GAME AND DEFEAT MENâ€™S BASKETBALL, 66-59
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Northern Colorado’s Jabril Banks had a team-best 17 points and eight rebounds, and the Bears used an 8-0 run over the final 3:40 to defeat Sacramento State, 66-59, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday evening at the Hornets Nest.
The game was tight all evening long as no team led by double digits, and the contest featured eight lead changes. After a three-pointer from senior Loren Leath gave Sacramento State a 59-58 lead with 3:41 remaining, Northern Colorado held the Hornets scoreless the rest of the way while scoring the game’s final eight points.
Sparked by John Pena’s three-pointer to begin the run, Northern Colorado made two of its final three shots of the game, and went 3-for-4 from the free throw line over that span. Conversely, during the last 3:40, the Hornets went 0-for-4 from the field with a turnover.
The Hornets, who have now played in three consecutive close games, nearly erased a 35-28 halftime deficit, by shooting 52.4 percent (11-21) in the second half, including 5-of-9 (47.1 percent) from the three-point line. Prior to the Hornets missing their final four shots, the team had been shooting 64.7 percent (11-17) in the second stanza.
Tonight marked the beginning of the second half of the Big Sky schedule as the Hornets dropped to 2-20 overall and 1-8 in the conference. Sacramento State also lost for the second time this year to Northern Colorado, and now owns a 2-4 record all-time against the Bears. Tonight wrapped up a season-long four-game homestand for the Hornets as the team does not return to the friendly confines until its final two home contests of the season against Montana (Feb. 12) and Montana State (Feb. 14).
Northern Colorado won for the fourth time in its last six games, and improved to 9-13, and 5-4 in the Big Sky. The Bears moved up to fourth place in the conference standings with just seven league games remaining on the schedule. The top six teams in the nine-member conference reach the postseason tournament which begins March 7.
“I was happy with our guys performance up until the final 3:40 of the game,” Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. “We haven’t been in a lot of close games this season, and we need to get better in those types of situations. However, I am encouraged about our overall improvement, defense and shot selection. We’re getting better play out of our post players, and we haven’t been struggling to score like we were at the beginning of the season.”
Banks’ 17 points came on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, and four of his eight rebounds came on the offensive glass, with each resulting in putback points. Banks helped Northern Colorado outscore Sacramento State in second chance points, 9-2, despite the Hornets holding an overall rebounding advantage of 28-26.
Pena scored 17 points, including nine in the second half. He knocked down 4-of-6 from beyond the three-point line, and two of those three-pointers came immediately after the Hornets had taken the lead in the second half. Overall, Pena shot 6-of-11 from the field while adding three assists and three steals. No other Northern Colorado player scored more than eight points as Mike Proctor finished with eight points and seven boards. The Bears, who entered the game ranked 30th in the nation and first in the Big Sky in three-point field goal percentage, finished the game shooting 47.1 percent (8-17) from long range and 51.0 percent (25-49) overall.
Sacramento State was led by senior Loren Leath’s game-high 18 points, including 13 in the second half. Leath, however, also had five turnovers, including one on three separate fast break opportunities. Leath finished the game shooting 6-of-14 from the field, 2-of-5 from the three-point line, and is averaging 29.5 points in two games against Northern Colorado this season.
Junior Antonio Flaggs joined Leath in double figures as the shooting guard had 12 points, three assists and two steals in a game-high 35 minutes. Senior center Randy Adams led all players with 10 rebounds, and junior Justin Eller finished with nine points. Leath (18), Flaggs (12), Eller (9) and Adams (7) combined for 46 of Sacramento State’s 59 points. Junior point guard Jared Stigall added six points, five assists and one turnovers The Hornets’ starting five of Eller, Adams, Stigall, Flaggs and Leath each played at least 30 minutes, while no other Hornet played more than 12.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting 46.7 percent (21-45) from the field, 47.1 percent (8-17) from the three-point line and 75.0 percent (9-12) from the charity stripe. The Hornets were outscored in the paint, 30-16, and had zero fast-break points.
Sacramento State returns to action for a pair of road games next week at Eastern Washington (Feb. 5) and Portland State (Feb. 8). Sunday’s game at Portland State will be televised live (1 p.m.) on Altitude Sports & Entertainment.