MEN’S BASKETBALL DROPS SECOND GAME OF ROAD TRIP TO IDAHO STATE

MEN’S BASKETBALL DROPS SECOND GAME OF ROAD TRIP TO IDAHO STATE

POCATELLO — Idaho State 7-foot center Novak Topalovic posted career highs in both points (25) and rebounds (17), and Sacramento State was ice cold from the free throw line (7-for-16, 44%) as the Bengals defeated the Hornets, 71-65, on Saturday evening at Reed Gym.

In a game that was close throughout, Sacramento State's inability to connect on a free throw was the biggest factor in the game. While the Hornets were posting their worst percentage of the season from the line (44%), Idaho State went 15-of-20 (75%), converting on eight more freebies.

After trailing by just one point at halftime (38-37), Sacramento State scored 28 points in the second half and shot 29% (9-31) from the field and 5-for-14 from the line during the half.

Though the Hornets remained within striking distance for much of the way, Idaho State never trailed the final 26:29. A 3-pointer from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa got the Hornets within, 62-60, with 2:12 to play. However, Idaho State closed on a 9-5 run that saw Sacramento State go 2-for-5 from the free throw line during that stretch. That included a front end of a 1-and-1 miss at the 1:40 mark. During the final two minutes, Sacramento State was 1-for-3 from the field, 2-for-5 from the line and committed a turnover. Over that same stretch, Idaho State was 2-for-2 from the field and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe.

With the loss, Sacramento State fell to 0-2 on its three-game Big Sky Conference road trip, and saw its record fall to 5-15 overall and 2-5 in league. The Hornets are now 0-9 on the road this season, and 0-4 against conference competition away from home. Prior to tonight's loss, Sacramento State had won six of the last eight meetings against Idaho State, including a 91-76 victory in the first round of last year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno.

Idaho State has now won nine of its last 13 games while improving to 9-9 overall and 4-3 in the Big Sky. That includes a 7-2 record at home, and 3-1 against league foes. Six of the last seven meetings between the Hornets and Bengals in Pocatello have been decided by six points or less.

The Hornets finished the game shooting 41% (25-61) from the field and 8-for-18 (44%) from the 3-point line, and the team's four turnovers were the lowest total of the season. Sacramento State had a healthy assist-to-turnover ratio (10 assists, 4 turnovers) while tallying its second highest steals total of the season (9). However, the free throws were a crusher. Sacramento State had shot better than 70 percent from the line in four of the last five games prior to tonight.

Idaho State shot 53% (26-49) from the field and overcame a 4-for-17 performance from the 3-point arc by converting on 15 free throws. The Bengals were forced into 14 turnovers and the Hornets held an 11-5 edge in points off miscues.

Idaho State's Topalovic was unstoppable all evening, finishing 12-for-14 from the field in 31 minutes. He had a double-double in the second half alone with 13 points and 10 boards. He also had a pair of dunks during the final two minutes, including a back-breaking flush with 44 seconds left to give ISU a 66-60 lead.

Four Sacramento State players scored in double figures, including guard Mauriohooho-Le'afa who had 14 points, four rebounds and was 3-for-7 from the 3-point line. Forward Justin Strings added 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out with 12 seconds remaining. The 14 points marked the 40th consecutive game Strings has scored in double digits.

Guard Jordan Tolbert had 13 points, five assists and three steals while shooting 3-for-7 from distance. The trio of Mauriohooho-Le'afa (3), Tolbert (3) and Strings (2) accounted for all eight Hornet 3-pointers. True freshman swingman Bryce Fowler had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field. Forward Joshua Patton added six points, but played just 16 minutes while dealing with constant foul trouble. Calvin Martin added two points and five rebounds in 13 minutes, and Jeff Wu had six points and a pair of steals.

The Hornets play just once next week when they conclude the three-game road trip on Saturday at Portland State. Tip-off is 1 p.m.