MENâ€™S BASKETBALL PICKS UP FIRST CONFERENCE WIN, KNOCKS OFF IDAHO STATE, 72-69
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State senior Loren Leath scored a game-high 22 points, and the Hornets knocked down 6-of-8 free throws during the final 1:12 to defeat Idaho State, 72-69, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Saturday evening at the Nest.
Tonight’s win snapped a 14-game losing streak, and the Hornets picked up their first conference victory of the season to improve to 2-19 overall and 1-7 in the Big Sky. In addition, Sacramento State snapped Idaho State’s three game winning streak as the Bengals (7-14, 4-3) now sit in a tie for third place in the league standings. In a series littered with close games, eight of the last 13 meetings between the two teams has now been decided by five points or less.
Sacramento State, which led the final 30:21 of the contest, used a 24-10 spurt during the last 9:15 of the first half to open up a 15-point lead (42-27) at halftime. The Hornets opened the second half with a Leath three-pointer to give the team a game-high 18-point lead (45-27) with 19:41 left in the contest. That’s when Idaho State began chipping away at the lead, immediately going on an 8-0 run to get the Hornets’ advantage down to 10 points (45-35).
After Justin Eller momentarily stopped the run with a free throw, Idaho State then scored the game’s next five points, punctuated by a Matt Stucki three-pointer to get within six (46-40) with 14:40 remaining. Both teams exchanged baskets the next 9:25 of game clock before a three-point play from Amorrow Morgan got the Bengals within three points (59-56 with 5:15 to play), the closest Idaho State had been since the 7:38 mark of the first half. However, the Bengals got no closer the rest of the evening as they narrowed the Hornets’ lead to three points on seven occasions during the last four minutes, but Sacramento State kept answering with scoring possessions.
Leath and Antonio Flaggs combined for eight of the Hornets’ final 12 points of the contest, and Sacramento State buried six of its final eight free throw attempts to put the game away. After a layup from Morgan again drew Idaho State within three (70-67) with eight seconds remaining, Leath knocked down two freebies to ice the victory.
Prior to tonight’s loss, the Bengals had defeated Montana, Montana State and Northern Arizona in succession, and were one of the league’s hottest teams. Sacramento State played nearly error free, finishing the game with 14 assists compared to just four turnovers. In fact, the team outscored Idaho State in points off turnovers, 16-3. In addition, the Hornets received 42 of their 72 points from players coming off the bench.
"I've believed in our players all year, and they are starting to believe in themselves," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "Its hard for me to get too excited about this win, because I've expected it from our guys all season. We're getting better, and tonight should go a long way for our guys confidence."
Three Hornets finished the game in double figures, comprised of Leath (22 points, 8-of-14 shooting, 4-of-7 from the three-point line), senior Randy Adams (career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting) and junior Justin Eller (12 points, career-high tying 12 rebounds). For Eller, the double-double was his fourth of the season and he remains the Big Sky’s leading rebounder with 7.2 per game.
Hornet point guards Mike Marcial (five assists, no turnovers) and Jared Stigall (seven points) combined for just one turnover the entire evening. Leath had a game-high three steals, and one of those steals fueled a fast-break layup from Flaggs with 1:31 to play. Flaggs added eight points, and increased his Big Sky-leading season free throw percentage to .877 with a 4-for-4 performance from the charity stripe.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting 47.1 percent (24-51) from the field, including 59.3 percent (16-27) in the first half. The team knocked down 6-of-15 from the three-point line (.400) and 18-of-27 (.667) from the free throw line. Conversely, Idaho State shot 52.0 percent (26-50) from the field, but just 1-of-10 (.100) from the three-point arc. In addition, the Bengals had four assists compared to 10 turnovers.
ISU was led by Morgan’s 19 points, but the junior also had no assists and six turnovers. Donnie Carson added 14 points, and Demetrius Monroe had 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Sacramento State concludes its season-long four-game homestand on Thursday, Jan. 29, when the team welcomes Northern Colorado to the Nest for a 7:05 p.m. tip. The Hornets are now at the halfway point of the conference season with just eight games remaining on the regular season schedule.