SACRAMENTO -- Playing in his first game in over a year after returning from injury, senior guard Marcus Graves recorded the first triple-double in school history to lead Sacramento State to a 76-52 season-opening win over Simpson on Friday evening at the Nest.
Graves missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery, and made quite the splash in his first regular season game since March 9, 2017. The team co-captain finished with 12 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and four steals, becoming the first player in program history (1948-pres.) to accomplish the rare collegiate triple-double.
Graves was one of four Hornets to score in double figures in a game Sacramento State led for nearly 39 minutes of game clock. The Hornets outscored Simpson in the first (36-25) and second (40-27) halves while holding big advantages in points in the paint (52-26), points off turnovers (29-8) and fast break points (18-6).
Sacramento State limited Simpson to 32% (19-60) shooting from the field and 14% (3-21) from the 3-point line. Conversely, the Hornets shot 47% (33-71) from the floor, and had 22 assists on the 33 made buckets.
The Hornets used a 19-8 run spanning 9:34 of the first and second halves to break open what had been a close game for a good portion of the opening half. By the time the run ended, the Hornets held a 45-29 lead with 14:54 remaining. Sacramento State led by double figures the rest of the way, opening up a lead as large as 26 points.
With the victory, Sacramento State won its season opener for the fifth time in the last eight years. The Hornets were playing their season opener at home for the first time in five seasons. The team will not leave the Sacramento area the first four games of the season, including matchups in the Nest against Cal Poly (Nov. 16) and Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 24) sandwiched around the annual Golden 1 Center game against UC Davis on Nov. 20.
With the loss, Simpson, which is an NAIA institution from Redding, Calif., dropped to 3-2. The Red Hawks had just upset a Div. II team (Notre Dame de Namur) by an 88-77 score on Monday. The Hornets and Red Hawks have played each other four times with Sacramento State winning each of those meetings by at least 24 points.
Making his Hornet debut after transferring from San Diego City College, sophomore Ethan Esposito was impressive. The forward scored a game-high 20 points while adding eight rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. He shot 7-for-9 from the field, made his only 3-point attempt and was 5-for-7 from the free throw line.
Joining Graves and Esposito in double figures for the Hornets were returners Joshua Patton (13 points, four rebounds, three blocks) and Bryce Fowler (12 points, three assists, two blocks and a steal).
Newcomer Osi Nwachukwu had eight points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals, Calvin Martin had four points and seven rebounds, and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa had three points and a steal. Chibueze Jacobs added two points, two rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Sacramento State finished with eight blocked shots and forced 21 Simpson turnovers.
Twelve Hornets played in tonight's game, including sophomore Jamion Wright and freshmen Elijah McCullough, James Bridges and Grant Greabell. Both Jeff Wu and Jordan Tolbert did not play because of injury. Wu will miss the season with an ankle injury.
Blake Trent led Simpson with 17 points and was 3-for-6 from the 3-point line. The rest of the Red Hawk squad was a combined 0-for-15 from distance.
The Hornets do not play again until Friday, Nov. 16, when they host Cal Poly at 6:05 p.m. inside the Nest. Note the different start time as the game is part of a doubleheader that will see the Sacramento State women take on Ohio State at 8:35 p.m.
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