MENâ€™S BASKETBALL LOSES LATE LEAD, DROPS ANOTHER NAIL BITER TO MONTANA STATE
Sophomore John Dickson scored a team-high 15 points Thursday night against Montana State
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Montana State outscored Sacramento State, 10-3, over the last 4:10 of the contest, and the Bobcats went on to defeat the Hornets, 61-59, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday evening at The Nest.
It was another gut-wrenching defeat for Sacramento State (3-11, 0-3) as the team has now dropped five straight and eight of the last nine. The Hornets, who opened Big Sky play last week on the road with a pair of overtime defeats against Eastern Washington and Idaho State, have now lost six games this year that have been decided by five points or less or went into overtime. In fact, during the team’s current five-game losing streak, three of those games were lost in overtime and then you have tonight’s two-point regulation defeat.
Late-game execution was a problem for the Hornets again tonight. After John Dickson hit a pair of free throws to give Sacramento State a five-point lead (56-51) with 5:20 remaining, the Hornets proceeded to commit turnovers on their next three possessions which allowed Montana State to eventually tie the score at 56-56 with three minutes remaining.
Alpha N’Diaye split a pair of free throws to put the Hornets back up a point, but Erik Rush immediately responded with a jumper to give the Bobcats a 58-57 lead with 1:57 remaining. Junior Duro Bjegovic answered with a running layup with 1:23 left to allow the Hornets to reclaim a 59-58 lead. Both teams did not score on their next possessions, setting up Montana State who took possession of the ball with 27 seconds remaining. Rush eventually drove hard to his right and knocked down a tough, running 10-footer off the glass that gave the Bobcats a 60-59 lead with 13 seconds on the clock.
After a timeout, Hornet true freshman Jackson Carbajal missed a contested layup with four seconds remaining, Bobby Howard grabbed the rebound, and was subsequently fouled with 3.7 seconds left. Howard split his free throws to give MSU a 61-59 lead, and Dickson’s desperation heave from well behind half court fell short at the buzzer.
During the last five minutes of play, Sacramento State committed four turnovers while shooting 1-for-3 from the field and 1-for-2 from the free throw line.
The Hornets, who could just as easily be 9-5 overall and 3-0 in the conference had all those close losses resulted in victories, will try and regroup for their next game on Saturday against Montana. Tip-off at the Nest is 7:05 p.m.
With the victory, Montana State picked up its first road win of the season while improving to 9-6 and 3-0 in the Big Sky. The Bobcats have won six straight matchups against the Hornets dating back to the 2007-08 season.
In a game where neither team led by more than six points the final 32:51, Sacramento State shot 50.0 percent (23-46) from the field, but committed 15 turnovers. Conversely, the Bobcats had just seven turnovers, and outscored the Hornets by a 16-8 margin in points off turnovers. The Bobcats were limited to 39.3 percent (22-56) shooting from the field, and hit nine three-pointers in 23 attempts (.391). Sacramento State outrebounded Montana State, 34-29, but the Bobcats were able to score 16 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds.
Rush scored a game-high 19 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 35 minutes. Four of those points came during the final two minutes, including the biggest shot of the game with 13 seconds remaining. Bobby Howard added 13 points and three steals for MSU while Cody Anderson had eight points.
Dickson scored a team-high 15 points, including 11 in the second half. The sophomore forward also chipped in five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. He was the only Hornet in double figures as both Carbajal and junior Josh McCarver added eight points. After missing eight consecutive games with an ankle injury, junior Alpha N’Diaye returned to the Hornets’ lineup and contributed five points and a team-high eight rebounds in 19 minutes. Bjegovic had eight points, and Sacramento State’s leading scorer, Sultan Toles-Bey, was limited to six points, including five assists and six turnovers.
The Hornets have not been outrebounded in six straight games, the longest such streak in recent memory.
NOTES -- Tonight marked Sacramento State’s Big Sky home opener…it also marked the first time in 27 days that the Hornets played a home game…the Hornets played just once inside the friendly confines during the entire month of December…Dickson is now averaging 14.7 points against Big Sky teams this year, easily the best mark on the Hornets…McCarver was 4-for-4 from the field tonight and is now shooting 86.7 percent (13-15) from the field this year…junior Zach Nelson had six more rebounds tonight, and now has posted at least five rebounds in eight of the last nine games.