SACRAMENTO -- After trailing by three points at halftime, Montana outscored Sacramento State, 46-31, in the second half and eventually defeated the Hornets, 78-66, on Thursday evening at the Nest.
After connecting on 14-of-25 shots in the first half, Sacramento State was limited to just 7-for-15 shooting in a second half that saw the Hornets turn the ball over 10 times. The Grizzlies opened the first seven minutes of the second half on a 21-8 run and never looked back. Montana would eventually build a lead as large as 20 points late in the second half before setting for the 12-point win.
The loss dropped Sacramento State to 4-13 overall and 1-3 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets also fell to 4-2 at home, and lost to Montana inside the Nest for the first time in four years. In fact, Montana entered the game with zero players on the roster that had won a game at the Nest. Sacramento State had won each of the last three meetings between the two teams at home, and swept the season series a year ago.
Montana won its fifth straight and improved to 12-5 overall and 5-0 in league. The Grizzlies are now the only team in the 12-member Big Sky without a conference loss, and Montana has won its first five Big Sky games for just the fourth time in school history. The Griz now sit atop the conference standings, one game ahead of Montana State (4-1) which lost at Portland State tonight.
Despite tonight's loss, Sacramento State is still 56-20 inside the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season. The Hornets began league play with a home win against Portland State two weeks ago before dropping a pair on the road last week.
The Hornets shot the ball well, converting on 53 percent (21-40) of its shots from the field and 50 percent (7-14) from the 3-point line. Sacramento State also connected on 17-of-27 shots from the free throw line (63 percent), but had a hard time rebounding and taking care of the ball. Montana used a decided edge on the glass (36-22) and forced the Hornets into 17 turnovers. In fact, the Grizzlies had a massive 14 steals as five different Sacramento State players had at least two miscues.
Montana attempted 17 more shots from the field than Sacramento State, and connected on five more made buckets. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 46 percent (26-57) from the field, 54 percent (7-13) from beyond the arc and 86 percent (19-22) from the free throw line. Sacramento State had just 10 assists (its lowest figure at home this season) compared to 17 turnovers. The Grizzlies also held a 30-16 advantage in points in the paint.
A total of 42 fouls were called during the game as the two teams combined to attempt 49 free throws.
For Sacramento State, senior forward Justin Strings, once again, led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds in a game-high 37 minutes. He shot 6-for-11 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line. He led the Hornets in scoring for the fifth straight game, and has notched double figures in points in 37 consecutive games.
Strings was joined in double digits by guards Jordan Tolbert (13 points, 4-6 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2-2 FT) and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (10 points, three assists). Forward Joshua Patton had nine points and two blocked shots, and forward Calvin Martin finished with six points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. No other Hornet scored more than three points.
Montana was led by Ahmaad Rorie's 23 points as the conference's sixth leading scorer also had six assists and three steals in 35 minutes. Michael Oguine added 16 points, three assists, zero turnovers and four steals, and Bobby Moorehaed had 13 points. Jamar Akoh had three steals and combined with Rorie and Oguine to post 10 steals between the threesome. Akoh also had nine points and eight rebounds, and Fabijan Krslovic had eight points and eight rebounds. Montana starters combined for 69 of the team's 78 points.
Sacramento State's home slate won't get any easier as the Hornets will play Montana State on Saturday evening in the Nest at 7:05 p.m. The Bobcats' loss to Portland State this evening was their first in conference play. Saturday's game is also Kids Day, as kids 12-under are admitted free. Posters will be handed out and there will be an autograph signing with the Sacramento State players after the game.