FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Despite shooting just 32 percent from the field (19-for-60) and 27 percent from the 3-point line (7-26), Sacramento State opened the 2017-18 season by hanging with a very good Colorado State team before eventually falling, 72-61, on Friday evening at Moby Arena.
The Hornets, who held a 35-34 lead early in the second half, lost to a Rams squad that went 24-12 overall and a second-place finishing 13-5 in the Mountain West a year ago. Sacramento State was also playing the game without the services of a starter (Marcus Graves) and a key reserve (Jiday Ugbaja). Colorado State held large advantages in points in the paint (36-18) and points off turnovers (18-6). Both teams had more turnovers than assists (Hornets 7 assists, 12 turnovers; Rams 8 assists, 9 turnovers).
Tonight marked the first of a stretch that will see the Hornets play seven of their first eight games away from the Nest. In fact, the only regular season home game Sacramento State will play during the entire month of November will come on Tuesday against Notre Dame de Namur.
Trailing, 34-32, at halftime, Sacramento State opened the second half with a 3-pointer from Jordan Tolbert to take a 35-34 lead. However, Sacramento State would miss its next 10 shots from the field. During that stretch, Colorado State went on a 16-2 run to take a 50-37 lead with 13:29 to play. The Rams would eventually push their lead to a game-high 17 points (68-51) with 5:49 to play.
However, Sacramento State immediately answered with a 10-0 run that got the score to 68-61, and had a chance to cut the deficit to four points with just under three minutes to play, but a Jeff Wu 3-point look rimmed out. All of the scoring during the 10-0 spurt came from Tolbert (5 points) and senior Justin Strings (5). After a Tolbert 3-ball trimmed the deficit to 68-61 at the 3:32 mark, Sacramento State would not score again while Colorado State scored four points over the final 2:37 to provide the final margin of victory. During the last three minutes of the game, the Hornets missed each of their six field goal attempts.
After shooting 36 percent from the field in the first half, Sacramento State shot just 28 percent in the second half. Colorado State outscored the Hornets after halftime by a 38-29 margin. The Rams weren't very proficient from the field either, finishing the game at 38 percent (24-63) from the field and 23 percent (4-17) from beyond the arc. Sacramento State went 16-of-22 (73%) from the free throw line while Colorado State was 20-for-25 (80%) at the charity stripe. Sacramento State was whistled for 12 fouls in the second half and the Rams were already in the free throw bonus with 12:28 to play.
Strings and Tolbert both scored 19 as the tandem combined for 38 of the Hornets' 61 points. Strings played all 40 minutes while finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and a blocked shot. Strings, who is a reigning second team all-conference selection and scored 44 points in the Hornets' exhibition win, was hounded all night by Colorado State's defense as he was limited to 6-of-22 shooting from the field. Strings entered the game needing just three points to notch 1,000 career points, and the fourth-year senior became the 15th player in school histoy to achieve the milestone.
Tolbert was making his Hornet debut after transferring from Western Texas College and got the start at point guard. The 5-foot-9, 150-pound guard was impressive in his debut, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists in 34 minutes. He shot 7-of-18 from the field, 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, and 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
Another Western Texas College transfer, shooting guard Kevin Hicks, also got the start and finished with eight points (2-for-5 from distance) and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Sophomore forward Joshua Patton had six points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks. Hicks fouled out of the game with 6:37 to play while Patton fouled out with 5:49 left.
Sacramento State started three guards (Tolbert, Hicks, Wu) and a pair of forwards (Strings, Patton). Wu finished with three points, three rebounds and a steal in 23 minutes. The Hornets received six points from their bench, including three points, four rebounds, a block and a steal from Citrus College transfer Calvin Martin. True freshman Bryce Fowler, who did not play in the Hornets' exhibition because of injury, made his Hornet debut with three points and a pair of rebounds in 15 minutes.
For Colorado State, Che Bob had eight points, 10 rebounds and three steals while Nico Carvacho had seven points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Prentiss Nixon scored a team-best 16 points and J.D. Paige scored 15 points (10 in the second half). Deion James came of the bench to pour in 10 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.
Sacramento State's game on Tuesday night against Notre Dame de Namur will tip at 7:05 p.m. After that game, Sacramento State does not return to the Nest until Dec. 6. The team does play in Sacramento on Nov. 21 against rival UC Davis at the Golden 1 Center.
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