MOSCOW, Idaho — Despite scoring its second most points of the season (90) and burying a season-high 15 3-pointers, Sacramento State fell at Idaho, 94-90, in a Big Sky Conference game on Saturday evening at the Cowan Spectrum.
In a game that Sacramento State led for just 1:40 of the contest, Idaho scored its most points against a Div. I opponent this season (94) and outscored the Hornets in both halves. That included a 37-36 advantage in the first half and a 57-54 edge in the second half. The 111 combined points in the second half were the most points in a half in a Sacramento State game this season.
Two days after an impressive road win at Eastern Washington, tonight's loss for the Hornets came against an Idaho team that had lost 14 in a row. The Vandals didn't miss many shots all evening, shooting 56% (29-52) from the field, 55% (11-20) from the 3-point line and 89% (25-28) from the free throw line. That includes a red hot 75% (15-20) from the field in the second half, not to mention 7-for-10 from the 3-point line and 20-of-21 from the charity stripe.
The Vandals led by as many as 14 points with just under six minutes to play in the game before the Hornets, sparked by senior guard Jordan Tolbert, went on a furious comeback that made things interesting late. Tolbert, who was inserted into the game at the 9:19 mark of the second half, proceeded to make 7-of-8 from the 3-point line over the final 6:42 of the contest. That included 3-balls at the 6:42, 5:52, 3:38, 2:52, 0:33, 0:19 and 0:17 marks of the second half.
Tolbert's seventh three-ball got the Hornets within, 90-88, with 17 seconds to play. However, Idaho's Losini Kamara buried a pair of free throws at the 14-second mark to push the lead back to four points. Sacramento State's next possession saw Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa convert a layup with 2.2 seconds left to get within two points, but the Vandals' Xavier Smith buried a pair of freebies at the 1.8 second mark to put the game away.
Tolbert finished with a team-high 21 points despite playing just 10 minutes. He entered tonight's game with two made 3-pointers all season, but lit up the scoreboard tonight and nearly single-handedly led the Hornets all the way back from a 14-point deficit. However, despite Tolbert's heroics, Idaho's torrid shooting was too much for a Sacramento State squad that gave up a season-high tying 94 points.
The loss dropped Sacramento State to 13-14 overall and 7-11 in the Big Sky. The Hornets, who were playing their final regular season road game of the season, continue to struggle when playing on Saturday. The team is now 2-11 when playing on a Saturday this season.
With just two games left in the regular season (both next week at home), Sacramento State finds itself in a tie for eighth place in the league standings with Northern Arizona. The Hornets are just two games back of sixth place Southern Utah and Portland State who are both 9-9 in conference play.
Idaho improved to 5-24 overall and 2-16 in league. The Hornets and Vandals split the season series as Sacramento State won earlier this season at the Nest by a 69-48 score.
A big factor in tonight's game was free throw shooting where Idaho was a blistering 25-for-28 from the free throw line while the Hornets shot just 66% (19-29) from the charity stripe. Sacramento State finished the game shooting 47% (28-60) from the field and 50% (15-30) from the 3-point line. The 15 3-pointers were easily a season best as the Hornets went 6-for-12 from distance in the first half and 9-of-18 in the second half. Both teams had the same amount of rebounds (31), second chance points (7) and points in the paint (24).
The Hornets' largest lead of the game was one point on two occasions - once late in the first half, and once early in the second half. However, it was a 19-6 Idaho run spanning 5:05 of the second half that gave the Vandals a 56-44 lead.
Five Sacramento State players scored in double figures, led by Tolbert's 21 points. Tonight snapped a streak of 25 straight games in which either Marcus Graves or Joshua Patton led the Hornets in scoring. Graves finished with 17 points, eight assists and two steals while going 11-for-14 from the free throw line. Mauriohooho-Le'afa had a season-high tying 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting from distance to go along with five assists. Over his last two games, Mauriohooho-Le'afa is 7-for-12 from long range.
Ethan Esposito had 12 points and three rebounds, and Bryce Fowler added 11 points, five assists and four rebounds. Patton had six points and five rebounds, but had to exit the game with an ankle injury with 2:11 to play. The combination of Tolbert and Mauriohooho-Le'afa went 12-for-16 from the 3-point line. Graves had 11 of his 17 points in the second half.
For Idaho, Trevon Allen had a game-high 29 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the field, 4-of-7 from long range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. The Vandals also received 17 points from Cameron Tyson on 5-for-8 shooting from the 3-point line.
Sacramento State concludes the regular season with a pair of home games next week on Thursday vs. Montana State and Saturday vs. Montana. Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m. The Hornets will open Big Sky Tournament play in Boise, Idaho, on March 13.