SACRAMENTO -- It was the tale of two halves as Sacramento State held a 37-27 halftime lead, only to see Northern Colorado outscore the Hornets, 43-28, in the second half as the Bears posted a 70-65 victory in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams on Saturday evening at the Nest.
Northern Colorado did its biggest damage late in the second half, as Sacramento State got a pair of Osi Nwachukwu free throws to take a 63-58 lead with 2:43 to play. However, the Bears would finish the game on a 12-2 run over the final 2:30. Scoring 11 of those points was preseason first team all-conference guard Jordan Davis. The nation's ninth leading scorer had 11 points during the game's final 2:30, scoring on five of Northern Colorado's final six possessions. In fact, the Bears scored on each of their last six possessions while the Hornets converted on just one of their final seven field goal attempts.
Davis' biggest shot was a well-contested 3-pointer from the wing that gave Northern Colorado a 66-65 lead with 46 seconds left. Just before that shot, a Marcus Graves jumper had given the Hornets a 65-63 advantage. Sacramento State, however, would not score again, as Northern Colorado tallied the game's final seven points (spanning 46 seconds), including four free throws from Davis to put the game away. Davis finished with 28 points, including 21 in the second half. He entered the game averaging 24.0 per contest.
Sacramento State did many things right in tonight's game, but not close things out. The Hornets had sizeable advantages in rebounding (39-27), points in the paint (44-28), second chance points (14-5) and fast break points (8-2). Sacramento State also converted on three more field goals than the Bears. Northern Colorado, however, buried 10 3-pointers while the Hornets were just 1-for-8 from distance.
With the loss, the Hornets dropped to 6-4 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky. In the process, the team had its five-game home winning streak (dating back to last season). Had Sacramento State won this evening, the 7-3 record would have been the best 10-game start for the program during the team's Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Northern Colorado, selected third in both the Big Sky's preseason media and coaches polls, improved to 7-5 overall and 1-0 in league play. The Bears were playing their fifth game of a season-long six-game road trip.
Tonight was the first of 20 Big Sky contests the Hornets will play, including a trip to the Montana schools next week.
Sacramento State shot 45% (29-65) from the field, but just 35% in the second half. Northern Colorado finished the game shooting 50% from the floor (26-52) and 35% (10-29) from the 3-point line. That included a blistering 59% from the field in the second half.
Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by center Joshua Patton's 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-high 37 minutes. The junior was 7-for-14 from the field, and five of his nine rebounds came on the offensive glass. He has now scored in double figures in every game this season, and is averaging 14.4 points per contest.
Nwachukwu posted season highs in points (11) and rebounds (6) while also tacking on a pair of steals. Graves finished with 12 points, six assists and four steals, and is now just 27 points shy of becoming the 16th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. Bryce Fowler added 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and six rebounds.
Seven different Hornets scored in tonight's game, including Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa who had seven points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. Ethan Esposito had six points in 11 minutes.
For Northern Colorado, Davis' 28 points came on 11-of-18 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 39 minutes. Bodie Hume had 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the 3-point line. It was Davis (21) and Hume (15) that combined for 36 of Northern Colorado's 43 points in the second half. Collectively, they had 46 of Northern Colorado's 70 points.
Sacramento State will play four of its next five games on the road. That includes a trip to the Montana schools next week, including Thursday at Montana at 6:05 p.m. PST, and Montana State on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. PST.
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