MEN’S BASKETBALL SUFFERS ANOTHER CLOSE LOSS IN 74-69 DEFEAT TO SAINT JOSEPH’S

MEN’S BASKETBALL SUFFERS ANOTHER CLOSE LOSS IN 74-69 DEFEAT TO SAINT JOSEPH’S

Wooden Legacy bracket

FULLERTON, Calif. -- With the score tied at 66-66 and under two minutes to play, Saint Joseph's went on an 8-3 run spanning the final 1:45 to beat Sacramento State, 74-69, in the third and final round of the Wooden Legacy Basketball Tournament in Titan Gym.

The Hornets (1-6 overall) were playing their third game in four days as part of the eight-team bracketed tournament and finished the event with an 0-3 record. However, after getting beaten handily by San Diego State in the opener on Thanksgiving night, Sacramento State showed steady improvement each game, taking both tournament host Cal State Fullerton (68-63 on Friday) and Saint Joseph's to the wire before eventually losing.

Saint Joseph's, which suffered two close losses to Washington State and Harvard to open the tournament, improved its record to 3-3. The Hawks, who have a storied basketball tradition, hail from Philadelphia and are members of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Sacramento State and Saint Joseph's were playing each other for the first time ever today.

After a floater from the Hornets' Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa tied the score at 66-66 with 2:05 to play, Saint Joseph's would score on each of its final five possessions, which included a 3-pointer from Taylor Funk to put the Hawks ahead for good at 69-66 with 1:45 left. After Funk's 3-ball, the Hornets' Joshua Patton split a pair of free throws to slice the deficit to two points (69-67 at 1:25), but Funk grabbed an offensive rebound on the Hawks' next possession and his putback gave SJU a 71-67 lead with 59 seconds left. Funk, who came off the bench to score all 15 of his points in the second half, had 11 points in the final 5:08 and converted each of Saint Joseph's final four field goal makes.

Sacramento State would then miss its next three field goal attempts (including a pair of wide open 3-point looks) and Saint Joseph's would go 2-for-4 at the free throw line to give the Hawks a 6-point lead with 27 seconds left. Senior Justin Strings would convert two free throws to provide Sacramento State its final tallies.

The Hornets led for 24:30 of game clock, including the majority of the second half. They took a game-high 12-point lead (55-43) on a 3-pointer from Jordan Tolbert with 11:27 left. However, Saint Joseph's finished on a 31-14 run over the final 11:15 of the contest.

The Hornets' season-long inability to connect with regularity from the 3-point line had a big impact on today's game as well as turnovers.

Sacramento State, which is shooting just .305 from the 3-point line this season, went 2-for-12 from distance in the second half today, which included missing each of its final eight 3-point attempts of the game. In addition, the Hornets turned the ball over 17 times which turned into a massive 27-8 advantage in points off turnovers for Saint Joseph's. A big free throw disparity also played a part in the loss as Saint Joseph's converted on 25-of-33 freebies white the Hornets were 15-for-21 from the line.

The Hornets played the final game of a grueling stretch of four games over six days, and will now get some rest before their next game at nationally ranked Saint Mary's on Dec. 4. Sacramento State has dropped five straight games, the longest losing streak for the program since the 2011-12 season.

The Hornets, who went on a 20-2 run after trailing in the first half by a 15-4 margin, finished the game shooting .453 (24-53) from the field and .286 (6-21) from the 3-point line. Sacramento State had 19 assists (10 more than the Hawks), and outrebounded the bigger Saint Joseph's squad, 35-33. Conversely, the Hawks shot .389 (21-54) from the field and .269 (7-26) from the 3-point line. The Hornets continue to guard the 3-point line well, as opponents are shooting just .319 (44-138) from distance this season. For the second straight game, the Hornets had a season-high 19 assists, and today's 19 came on 24 made buckets.

Strings posted his 27th straight game in double figure points and 18th career 20-point game, after finishing with 20 on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 from the free throw line. He also added five rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Joshua Patton finished two points shy of his career high with 15 on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line. He also added seven rebounds and two blocked shots in a career-high 32 minutes.

Guard Jeff Wu posted a season-best nine points, and Tolbert came off the bench to notch nine points, six assists and three rebounds in 27 minutes. Tolbert was 3-for-4 from the 3-point line and is now converting his 3-balls at very high .560 (14-25) clip. Mauriohooho-Le'afa had seven points, six assists and a career-high nine rebounds, and true freshman Bryce Fowler had six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal.

Shavar Newkirk scored 22 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field and 11-for-14 from the line, Funk had 15 points and six rebounds, James Demery added 15 points (9-for-10 from the line) and Lorenzo Edwards had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Sacramento State, which has still played just one home game all season, conclude a run of six straight games away from the Nest on Monday, Dec. 4, against nationally ranked Saint Mary's. After the Saint Mary's game, the Hornets will play four of their next six games inside the Nest, including matchups against Antelope Valley (Dec. 6), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 19), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 23) and the conference opener vs. Portland State (Dec. 30).