SACRAMENTO -- Despite a career-high 23 points from sophomore guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa, Sacramento State could not overcome 11 3-pointers from Portland in an 80-75 loss to the Pilots on Thursday evening at the Golden 1 Center.
The game marked the second of the season for the Hornets at the downtown facility which is the home of the Sacramento Kings. Tonight's game was the first of a doubleheader that saw Kansas taking on Stanford in the nightcap.
Despite Sacramento State putting up its best numbers of the season against a Div. I opponent in points (75), field goals made (29) and three-pointers made (8), the Hornets fell to 3-9 overall this season. The team is still looking for its first win away from the Nest as Sacramento State is now 0-4 on neutral floors, 0-5 on the road and 3-0 at home.
The victory allowed Portland to move its record to 6-7 overall. The Pilots, who are coached by former NBA veteran Terry Porter, were able to win their second straight, and third in the last four games.
In a highly entertaining back-and-forth game that saw both teams shoot for high percentages, it was the Pilots that outlasted the Hornets after going 11-of-26 from the 3-point line and holding a 16-9 advantage in points off turnovers. Portland led for nearly 35 minutes of game clock, but Sacramento State stayed within striking distance the entire way.
After the Hornets took their only lead of the second half at 46-45 with 16:36 to play, Portland used a 27-17 run over the next 12 minutes of game clock to take a 72-63 lead at the 4:41 mark.
Sacramento State would respond with an 8-2 run that was punctuated by a three-point play from Jordan Tolbert and a 3-ball from Mauriohooho-Le'afa to get within, 74-71, with 2:45 to play. However, Portland would score on four of its final five possessions, which included four made free throws, to ice the game. The Hornets had two good looks from beyond the 3-point line during the game's final two minutes, but missed both opportunities.
Sacramento State trailed by a game-high 13 points in the first half, but went on a 12-0 run late in the half to get back in the game.
Sacramento State shot 51% (29-57) from the field and 40% (8-20) from the 3-point line, but just 56% (9-16) from the free throw line. That included going 8-for-14 from the charity stripe in the second half. Portland, which shot 50 percent from the field and had the same number of made buckets as the Hornets (29-58), went 11-of-26 (42%) from deep. The Pilots had just seven turnovers compared to 12 miscues for Sacramento State.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa's 23 points surpassed his previous career best of 20, as the sophomore shot 8-of-11 from the field, 5-for-7 from the 3-point line and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 34 minutes. He has now scored in double figures in four of his last five games.
Senior Justin Strings had 19 points and a season-best 13 rebounds to go along four assists in a game-high 36 minutes. Strings, who is the Hornets' leading scorer at 16.3 ppg, was limited to 7-for-19 shooting from the field. He scored in double figures for the 32nd consecutive game dating back to last year.
Tolbert rounded out the Sacramento State players in double figures as he finished with 16 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 from the 3-point line. Tolbert is now shooting a very proficient 51% (20-39) from beyond the arc this season. Freshman swingman Bryce Fowler had eight points and four assists, forward Joshua Patton added five points and eight rebounds, and guard Jeff Wu had four points and three rebounds. Sacramento State used just eight players in tonight's game, including Jiday Ugbaja who played in seven minutes in his second game back from injury.
Portland had five players in double figures, including D'Marques Tyson (17 points, 5-of-8 from distance), Josh McSwiggan (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4-of-8 from distance), Marcus Shaver Jr. (12 points), Philipp Hartwich (11 points, 8 rebounds) and JoJo Walker (10 points). The combination of McSwiggan and Tyson went 9-for-16 from beyond the 3-point line.
Sacramento State is in the middle of a stretch that sees the team play three times over a five-day stretch, including Saturday at home against UC Santa Barbara at 7:05 p.m. The Hornets defeated Cal State Northridge on Tuesday night. Saturday will mark the Hornets' final non-conference game of the season as the team will host Portland State in the Big Sky Conference opener on Saturday, Dec. 30.