MENâ€™S BASKETBALL HANGS TOUGH WITH PORTLAND STATE, BUT FALLS, 79-67
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Portland State used a 15-0 run late in the first half, and had five players score in double figures as the Vikings defeated Sacramento State, 79-67, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Friday evening at the Hornets Nest.
Portland State was able to take control of the contest with a 15-0 run that spanned seven minutes and 15 seconds of the first half. That run began with a three-pointer from Andre Murray which gave Portland State a 19-17 lead with 9:23 left. The Vikings would score 12 more unanswered points, until a jumper from the Hornets’ Mike Edwards mercifully ended the run, but PSU was already on top, 31-19, with 3:08 to play. During the run, Sacramento State went 0-for-11 from the field while turning the ball over three times. What made the run even more discouraging was four of those 11 misses were layups.
After Edwards’ jumper ended the Viking run, Sacramento State and Portland State played even the rest of the way. The Hornets sliced the lead to seven points at the 12:59 and 12:20 marks of the second half, but could not get closer. Sacramento State’s last opportunity to really slice the PSU lead even further came after a three-point play from Loren Leath put the Hornets down, 65-57, with 3:16 remaining. After a pair of missed Viking free throws, Sacramento State had a chance to cut the lead to five points with 2:40 remaining, but Jared Stigall’s three-point attempt fell off the mark.
Jeremiah Dominguez immediately knocked down a jumper to put the Vikings up 10 points with 2:28 to play, and the Hornets would get no closer than within nine points the rest of the way.
With the victory, Portland State, which knocked off then seventh-ranked Gonzaga last week, improved to 11-4 overall and 2-0 in the Big Sky. The Vikings are the defending Big Sky champions and have now won 16 straight games against Big Sky competition dating back to last season.
The Hornets, who were playing their first conference game of the year, dropped to 1-13 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State has dropped eight straight games since its lone victory of the season against UC Davis on Dec. 3. The Hornets, who return to action in two days when the team hosts Eastern Washington, dropped to 9-18 all-time against Portland State, including an 8-6 mark in Sacramento.
“We missed a good amount of layups tonight (10 total), and if we make those opportunities, its a completely different game,” Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz. “Not converting jumpers is one thing, but missing layups is another, and we can’t afford for that to happen. We will make those types of shots more routinely in the future, but I am proud of our guys for playing with the best team in the league.”
Portland State’s five players in double figures consisted of Andre Murray (16), Jamie Jones (14), Julius Thomas (11), Dominic Waters (10) and Phil Nelson (10). Murray led the team with six rebounds. The Hornets were able to limit the Big Sky’s reigning most valuable player Jeremiah Dominguez to nine points on just 2-of-9 shooting from the field. The Vikings shot 47.5 percent (28-59) overall, and 32 of the team’s 79 points came in the paint.
Sacramento State was led by Leath’s 23 points (8-of-15 shooting), six rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes. Twenty-one of Leath’s 23 points came during the second half. Justin Eller posted his third double-double of the season as the junior big man finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Eller is now averaging 10.7 points and 7.2 rebounds this season, and he remains one of the top rebounding players in the league.
Junior Antonio Flaggs added 12 points and four rebounds, senior Randy Adams had five points and six rebounds, and Stigall had a game-high seven assists with just two turnovers and two steals.
The Hornets shot 38.3 percent (23-60) from the field, including 46.7 percent (14-30) in the second half after an ice cold 30.0 percent (9-30) during the first stanza. Sacramento State had seven steals and forced 14 PSU turnovers, but committed 15 miscues of its own.
Sacramento State plays its third home game in six days when the team hosts Eastern Washington this Sunday, Jan. 4, at 2:05 p.m. After Sunday’s game, the Hornets do not return home until Jan. 18.