RED-HOT MONTANA TOO MUCH FOR MENâ€™S BASKETBALL
MISSOULA, Mont. – Montana shot 61.5 percent (32-52) from the field and outscored the Hornets, 49-27, in the second half on the way to an 86-58 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena.
After a three-pointer from freshman John Dickson gave Sacramento State a 25-24 lead with 5:23 remaining in the first half, Montana proceeded to outscore the Hornets, 62-33, over the final 24:34 of the contest. Sacramento State was trailing by just six points (37-31) at halftime.
Sacramento State converted on 11 of its first 22 attempts from the field, but the team went just 9-of-27 the rest of the way. In addition, the Hornets committed 19 turnovers, their fourth worst output of the season. Conversely, Montana seemingly couldn’t miss, finishing the game shooting 61.5 percent (32-52) from the field and a blazing 55.6 percent (10-18) from the three-point line.
That included a second half which saw the Grizzlies shoot 64.3 percent (18-28) from the field, including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Montana finished the game by scoring 27 points off Hornet turnovers while also outscoring Sacramento State in the paint by a 30-20 margin.
Today marked the final road game of the season for the Hornets. The team has two home contests remaining next week against both Northern Arizona (Feb. 26) and Northern Colorado (Feb. 27).
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped 9-19 overall and 3-11 in the Big Sky. The team’s Big Sky Tournament hopes are on life support as the top six teams in the nine-member conference reach the league’s postseason event. Should Portland State (5-8), which sits in sixth place, win one of its remaining three games, the Hornets will be officially eliminated from Big Sky Tournament contention.
Montana (19-8, 10-5) moved to within a half game of second place in its quest for a first-round bye in the Big Sky Tournament. The Grizzlies have now won six of their last seven games, and improved to 13-1 at home. Montana swept the season series, having defeated the Hornets earlier this season in Sacramento, 57-56.
Montana had four players score in double figures, comprised of Ryan Staudacher (17 points, 5-of-7 from the three-point line), Will Cherry (16 points, eight rebounds and five assists), Anthony Johnson (16 points, 6-of-8 shooting) and Michael Taylor (11 points, three steals). Staudacher and Taylor both scored 11 points in the second half. All five Montana starters shot better than 50 percent from the field.
Sacramento State shot 40.8 percent (20-49) from the field, 41.2 percent (7-17) from the three-point line and 64.7 percent (11-17) from the free throw line. The Hornets were outrebounded, 32-27, and received 32 of their 58 points from the bench. Sacramento State has shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc five times in its last seven games.
The Hornets were led by Sultan Toles-Bey’s 14 points as the junior point guard finished 4-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the three-point line. He was joined in double figures by seniors Michael Selling (13 points, six rebounds) and Justin Eller (13 points, seven rebounds). Senior Antonio Flaggs added eight points and a team-best three assists.
The Hornets, who entered the game ranked second in the Big Sky in steals, finished with just two steals, their lowest output of the year.
Prior to next Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado, Sacramento State seniors Eller, Flaggs, Selling, Domineek Daniel, Jonathan Malloy, Mike Marcial and Jared Stigall will be honored for their contributions to the program.