LATE DUNK FROM WILLIAMS SPARKS MENâ€™S BASKETBALL TO VICTORY AT NORTHERN COLORADO
GREELEY, Colo. -- 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 in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Saturday evening 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 an emphatic 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.
With the win, Sacramento State (6-8, 1-1) snapped a six-game losing streak on the road while improving to 2-7 away from home. The state of Colorado has been good to the Hornets this season, as both road wins have come in the Centennial State, including a 74-53 victory at Denver on Nov. 17. Tonight’s contest concluded a season-long four game road trip for Sacramento State as the team played just once at home during the entire month of December. Sacramento State will now play six of its next eight games at home, welcoming Big Sky foes Montana (Jan. 4) and Idaho State (Jan. 6) to the Hornets Nest next week.
With the loss, Northern Colorado, which is beginning its first season in the Big Sky Conference, dropped to 2-12 overall and 0-2 in the conference. The Bears lost their first-ever Big Sky game on Thursday to Weber State, 61-60.
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 Northern Colorado, 15-3, in points off turnovers. The Bears were forced into 19 turnovers, including three steals each from senior Alex Bausley, freshman Alonzo Young, and sophomore Loren Leath.
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 for Sacramento State 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. The Hornets grabbed the rebound, and Bausley knocked down 1-of-2 free throws to give the Hornets a three-point lead (72-69 with 1:34 left). On Northern Colorado’s next possession, Kirk Archibeque hit 1-of-2 freebies to draw the Bears back within two points with 1:20 left. The Hornets would then hold the ball for the next 70 seconds, as Leath missed a jumper with 46 seconds remaining, but Williams was able to grab the offensive rebound. The Hornets then milked the shot clock all the way down to the final second before Williams’ flush put the game away.
Roberts’ defense on 6-9 center Archibeque proved pivotal during the last 14 minutes of the second half. Archibeque scored 12 of Northern Colorado’s first 15 points of the second half, and already had 21 points with 14:01 remaining in the game. Roberts then drew the assignment of guarding Archibeque, and helped limit the Bears’ big man to just three points during the final 14 minutes of the contest. Roberts, a 6-6, 205-pound forward, finished the game with three points, six rebounds, one steal, and the huge blocked shot in 21 minutes of action (15 minutes in the second half).
Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by Hargrave’s 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal in 37 minutes of action. Hargrave shot 5-of-11 from the field, 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point line, and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. The 5-11 combo guard loves the state of Colorado as he scored a career-high 31 points at Denver earlier this season. 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).
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.
All but one (Jan. 16 at Cal Poly) of Sacramento State’s remaining 15 regular season games will be a Big Sky contest, including next week when the team hosts defending Big Sky Tournament champion Montana (Thursday, Jan. 4, 7:35 p.m.) and Idaho State (Saturday, Jan. 6, 7:05 p.m.). Both games are part of a doubleheader as the Sacramento State women’s team will play Northern Arizona on Thursday at 5:05 p.m., and Northern Colorado on Saturday at 2:05 p.m.