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MENâ€™S BASKETBALL OPENS CONFERENCE PLAY WITH LOSS AT NORTHERN COLORADO
GREELEY, Colo. -- Northern Colorado’s Sean Taibi scored 11 of his game-high 24 points during the final 4:09 of the contest to break open a close game and lead the Bears to a 74-60 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Friday evening at the Butler-Hancock Pavilion. The game marked the Big Sky opener for both teams.
With the loss, Sacramento State, which is in the middle of a season-long five game road trip, dropped to 2-9 overall and 0-1 in the conference. The Hornets are now 0-5 when playing their first Big Sky game on the road since joining the league in 1996-97. Northern Colorado, which has already eclipsed last season’s win total, improved to 6-6 overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky.
After a driving layup from Vinnie McGhee, Jr., brought the Hornets to within six points (63-57) of the Bears’ lead with 4:54 remaining, Taibi proceeded to score Northern Colorado’s final 11 points. The Bears finished the final 4:09 of the game on an 11-3 run to provide the final 14-point margin of victory. In a game which featured eight lead changes and five ties, the 14-point margin of victory was one point shy of Northern Colorado’s largest lead of the night (15, with 33 seconds remaining).
The hot shooting of McGhee in the second half kept the Hornets close. After Northern Colorado took a 12-point lead (49-37) with 12:30 remaining, McGhee scored 16 of the Hornets’ next 20 points, with four of those buckets coming on three-pointers. His layup at the 4:54 mark got the Hornets to within six points, but the team went just 1-for-4 from the field, 1-for-3 from the free throw line and committed a pair of turnovers during the 4:17 to allow the Bears to coast to victory.
Sacramento State, which trailed 31-28 at the half, was badly outrebounded, 43-23, and Northern Colorado outscored the Hornets, 13-0, in second chance points. The Hornets forced the Bears into 24 turnovers, but committed 19 of their own. Northern Colorado knocked down 42.9 percent (9-21) of its three-point attempts and went 15-of-16 (.938) from the free throw line.
Taibi’s 24 points came on 9-of-16 shooting from the field (6-of-10 from three-point land) and he also added six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Joining Taibi in double figures for the Bears were Jabril Banks (16 points, game-high eight rebounds), Neal Kingman (11) and Jefferson Mason (11).
McGhee led the Hornets with a season-high 19 points as the freshman shot 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. McGhee scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, and had exactly half of Sacramento State’s 32 points during the second stanza. Senior Clark Woods (11 points) was the only other Hornet in double figures.
Junior Randy Adams led the Hornets with five rebounds and now has 27 rebounds over his last four games. Senior Justin Williams added four points, three rebounds, two assists and a game-high four steals. After missing the previous five games with a knee injury, sophomore guard Alonzo Young returned to the floor tonight and finished with seven points in 18 minutes.
Entering tonight’s game as the Big Sky’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, Sacramento State shooting guard Loren Leath struggled from the field for the second straight contest. Leath scored five points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field and is now shooting 2-for-19 (.105) with just seven points over his last two games.
Sacramento State concludes its five-game road trip next week when the team travels to Big Sky rivals Portland State (Thursday, Jan. 3) and Eastern Washington (Saturday, Jan. 5). After the Eastern Washington game, Sacramento State will play four straight and seven of nine games at home.
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