DESPITE A RECORD 41 POINTS FROM LEATH, MENâ€™S HOOPS FALLS TO NORTHERN COLORADO
GREELEY, Colo. -- Despite a record 41 points from Sacramento State’s Loren Leath, Northern Colorado used three substantial runs of 17-1, 14-1, and 14-0 spanning different parts of the contest as the Bears defeated the Hornets, 91-73, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Tuesday evening at the Butler-Hancock Pavilion.
Leath was on fire all night long as the fourth-year senior posted Sacramento State Div. I (1991-pres.) school records in points (41) and three-pointers made (9). The 41 points tied for the second most in program history (1948-pres.), trailing only Lynn Livie’s 51-point output during the 1965-66 season. In addition, his 41 points were tied for the most in the Big Sky this season, and tied for the 26th best mark in conference history.
Leath was hitting shots from nearly everywhere on the floor, including a 30-footer late in the first half. He finished the game 12-of-18 from the field, 9-of-11 from the three-point line and 8-of-11 from the free throw stripe. In fact, one of those three-point misses was a desperation attempt as the shot clock expired, so he legitimately missed just one decent three-point look all night long.
He joins Jameel Pugh (40 points against William Jessup on Jan. 25, 2005) as the only two Hornets to score 40 points during the program’s Div. I era. In addition, Leath’s nine three-pointers surpasses the previous Div. I school record of eight, held by Haron Hargrave, Charlo Davis and Pugh. The nine three-pointers are also tied for the fourth most in Big Sky single-game history, and he becomes the first conference player to hit more than eight since Northern Arizona’s Kelly Golob during the 2003-04 season.
However, not even Leath’s monster night could stop a Northern Colorado offense that shot a blazing 54.7 percent (29-53) from the field and 54.6 percent (12-22) from the three-point line. The Bears, who are easily the top three-point shooting team in the conference, proved why tonight as four different Northern Colorado players made at least two three-pointers while also shooting at least 50.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Northern Colorado led from start to finish, opening the game on a 17-1 run spanning the first 5:24 of the contest, and later used runs of 14-1 (spanning 5:48 of the first half), and 14-0 (spanning 2:53 of the second half) to put the game out of reach. After falling behind, 17-1, the Hornets were able to claw their way back into the contest thanks in large part to Leath’s 24 first-half points. In fact, Leath scored 24 of the team’s final 28 points of the half to draw the Hornets back within striking distance (48-38) at halftime.
After both teams played nearly even the first seven minutes of the second half, Northern Colorado all but put the game away with a 14-0 that gave the team a commanding 72-46 lead with 9:52 to play. Sacramento State eventually closed to within 13 points (83-70) of the Bears’ lead after Leath’s ninth three-pointer hit the bottom of the net with 3:55 to play, but that was as close as the team would get.
With the victory, Northern Colorado improved to 6-11 overall and 2-2 in the Big Sky. The Bears, who were playing for the first time since Jan. 6, also improved their record to 4-2 at home. Northern Colorado also owns a 3-2 advantage over the Hornets in the all-time series between the two teams which began just two years ago.
Sacramento State (1-17, 0-5) dropped its 12th straight game, and has not won since an 82-70 victory over Causeway rival UC Davis on Dec. 3. The Hornets are now 0-11 on the road and have dropped each of those games by double figures. Tonight’s game also marked the end to a grueling three-game road trip that will see the Hornets remain on the road for eight consecutive days by the time the team finally returns to Sacramento tomorrow.
Northern Colorado had four players score in double figures, comprised of John Pena (22 points, 5-of-6 from beyond the arc), Will Figures (22 points, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc), Taylor Montgomery (14 points, game-high eight rebounds) and Yahosh Bonner (11 points, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc). Northern Colorado held a 30-27 advantage on the glass, and scored 22 points off 15 Sacramento State turnovers.
Leath was the only Hornets in double figures as he accounted for over 56 percent of the team’s offensive output. In five games against Big Sky competition, Leath is now averaging 22.4 points on 55.0 percent (33-60) shooting from the field and 53.3 percent (16-30) shooting from beyond the arc. In addition, he has led the Hornets in scoring in four of the five conference games, and has at least 18 points in each of those four contests. Leath’s 223 career three-pointers now moves him into sixth place in Big Sky history, and fourth in Sacramento State history.
Also for the Hornets, senior center Randy Adams finished with nine points and a career-high three assists, and junior Justin Eller added five points and team highs in rebounds (5) and steals (2) before fouling out with 7:40 remaining. Junior Jared Stigall led all players with four assists. The Hornets finished the evening shooting 46.0 percent (23-50) from the field, 70.6 percent (12-17) from beyond the arc and 65.2 percent (15-23) from the free throw line. The team’s three-point percentage was the best in school history, surpassing the previous mark of 70.0 percent (7-10), set against Bethany on Nov. 10, 2006.
The Hornets will now embark upon a season-long four-game homestand, beginning this Sunday, Jan. 18, against Northern Arizona as part of a doubleheader with the women’s team. The Hornet women will play Northern Arizona at 12:35 p.m., followed by the men taking on the Lumberjacks at 3:05 p.m.