Big Sky Conference standings
Big Sky Tournament Central

SACRAMENTO -- North Dakota had five players score in double figures, and shot 12-of-23 (.522) from the 3-point line on the way to a 90-73 victory over Sacramento State on Thursday evening in the Nest.

The Fighting Hawks scored better than 40 points in each half and finished the game shooting 56% (30-54) from the field and 75% (18-24) from the free throw line. UND led for over 34 minutes of game clock, outscoring Sacramento State in both the first (42-31) and second (48-42) halves.

Sacramento State cut the 11-point halftime deficit to seven points on five occasions in the second half, but would get no closer. UND shot a blistering 16-of-28 (57%) from the field in the second half and 64% (9-14) from long range. Sacramento State opened the second half by converting on eight of its first 10 field goal attempts, but could not overcome the long range efficiency of the Fighting Hawks.

North Dakota led by double figures the final 11:29 of the contest, and the 17-point margin of victory was also the Fighting Hawks' largest lead of the evening. Both teams finished with the same amount of field goal attempts (54), but North Dakota converted eight more 3-pointers and three more free throws.

The injury ravaged Hornets lost their ninth straight game while falling to 6-24 overall and 3-14 in the Big Sky Conference. Already playing without three guards who were lost for the season because of injury (Marcus Graves, Jiday Ugbaja, Jeff Wu), Sacramento State guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa played just 11 minutes in tonight's game and missed the entire second half with injury. It was Mauriohooho-Le'afa that did not play in Saturday's game because of injury, but tried to give it a go tonight.

The Hornets can finish no higher than the No. 11 seed for next week's Big Sky Conference Tournament in Reno. Sacramento State will play in the first round of the postseason event on Tuesday at either 2:35 p.m. or 8:05 p.m. With one game left in the regular season, Sacramento State will lock up the 11 seed with a win on Saturday or a Northern Arizona (2-15) loss. Should the Hornets finish as the 11 seed, they would take on the No. 6 seed (Idaho State or Portland State) on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. Should the Hornets lose Saturday and NAU win, Sacramento State would be the 12 seed and play at 2:35 p.m. on Tuesday against the No. 5 seed (Northern Colorado).

The Hornets' regular season finale on Saturday will come at home against Northern Colorado at 7:05 p.m.

North Dakota won for the third time in four games while improving to 11-18 overall and 6-11 in the Big Sky. The victory guarantees that UND will be in the opening game of the Big Sky Tournament (12:05 p.m. on Tuesday) as the Fighting Hawks will be either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

For Sacramento State, sophomore forward Joshua Patton had a big night, finishing with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-9 shooting from the field. He also added a career-high tying nine rebounds to go along with a pair of blocks and a steal in 33 minutes. Senior Justin Strings had 21 points and six assists in a team-high 37 minutes. Strings now has 1,533 career points and moved past Chuck Mobley (1,517) into second place in program history (1948-pres.) in career scoring. Two weeks ago, Strings became the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.) leader in scoring.

Jordan Tolbert added nine points and a steal, and Bryce Fowler had eight points, six assists and two blocked shots. Four of the Hornets' five starters (Strings, Fowler, Patton and Kevin Hicks) played at least 33 minutes.

For North Dakota, Conner Avants led the way with a career-high 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field. Geno Crandall had 19 points, seven assists and six steals, and Cortez Seales had 15 points and seven rebounds. UND used just seven players in tonight's game, and three of those players buried at least three 3-pointers. That included Kienan Walter who had 12 points on 4-of-4 from distance.

Sacramento State's final regular season game on Saturday will come against Northern Colorado at 7:05 p.m. The Bears are currently the No. 5 seed and are 11-6 in league after winning at Portland State tonight. Prior to Saturday's game, Hornet seniors Strings and James Herrick will be honored for their contributions to the program.