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MENâ€™S BASKETBALL WRAPS UP HOMESTAND WITH LOSS TO EASTERN WASHINGTON
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Benny Valentine had a game-high 33 points, and Eastern Washington attempted 25 more shots from the field than the Hornets, as the Eagles defeated Sacramento State, 87-74, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Sunday afternoon at the Nest.
The turning point in the game came midway through the first half when Eastern Washington took control of the contest with a 17-3 run that spanned four minutes and 52 seconds. With the score tied at 18-18, the spurt began with a three-pointer from Valentine with 9:18 left in the first half, and ended with a layup from Andris DeLeon that gave the Eagles a 35-21 lead with 4:26 remaining. During the run, Sacramento State committed nine turnovers, and attempted just two field goals.
After Eastern Washington took the 35-21 lead, Sacramento State never got closer than within nine points of the Eagles’ lead the rest of the way.
In a physical game that lasted two hours and eight minutes, the two teams combined for 53 fouls (32 called on EWU), 64 free throws and 29 turnovers. Sacramento State got to the free throw line 42 times, and converted on 30 of those opportunities. However, Eastern Washington was able to turn 18 Sacramento State turnovers into 30 points while outscoring the Hornets in second-chance opportunities, 17-4. In fact, Eastern Washington attempted 25 more shots from the field (66-41), converting on 47.0 percent (31-66) of those chances.
With the loss, Sacramento State lost its ninth straight game, and dropped to 1-14 overall and 0-2 in the Big Sky. The Hornets, who were playing their third home game in six days, will now embark upon a treacherous road trip that will see the team remain on the road for eight days.
Eastern Washington improved its record to 8-7 overall and 2-1 in the conference. The Eagles were playing their third straight game on the road, and have now defeated Sacramento State on six consecutive occasions dating back to 2006.
“They were able to knock down shots early, and that really spread our defense,” Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. “That played right into their hands because they were able to penetrate down the middle and get some easy looks while our guys were spread out. I was happy we were able to get to the free throw line 42 times, but there are no silver linings in a loss.”
In a game that featured the top two scorers in the Big Sky (Eastern Washington’s Valentine and Sacramento State’s Loren Leath), both players did not disappoint. Valentine’s season-high 33 points came on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-6 from the three-point line and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. Leath had 26 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor, 3-of-5 from the three-point line and 11-of-12 from the free throw line before fouling out with 4:35 to play. Valentine remains the conference’s scoring leader at 16.7 per game, and Leath is now second with 15.0 per game.
Valentine was joined in double figures by DeLeon (17) and Milan Stanojevic (12 points, seven rebounds) as the trio combined for 62 of Eastern Washington’s 87 points. The Eagles shot 9-of-20 (45.0 percent) from beyond the three-point line, as DeLeon, Stanojevic and Valentine each knocked down at least two jumpers from long range.
Leath has now led Sacramento State in scoring in three straight games, and both his free throws made (11) and attempted today (12) were career highs. He was joined in double figures by senior Randy Adams (10 points) and junior Justin Eller (13 points, game-high eight rebounds). Despite playing with a bad case of food poisoning, junior point guard Jared Stigall finished with six points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes. Junior Antonio Flaggs added seven points, four rebounds and two steals.
The Hornets finished the game shooting 46.3 percent (19-41) from the field, 46.2 percent (6-13) from the three-point line and 71.4 percent (30-42) from the free throw line. The Hornets’ 74 points were the team’s second highest output of the season.
Sacramento State will now embark upon a road trip that will see the team remain on the road for eight straight days. During the eight-day trip, the Hornets will travel to Big Sky foes Montana State (Jan. 8), Montana (Jan. 10) and Northern Colorado (Jan. 13).
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