SACRAMENTO -- Twelve different Hornets cracked the scoring column, and Sacramento State's defense was on display again in a 72-36 win over UC Merced on Tuesday evening inside the Nest.
The victory allowed Sacramento State to improve to 5-1, matching the best six-game start in program history (1948-pres.). Previously, only seven teams in Hornet history were 5-1, including three during the Div. I era (1991-pres.). Should Sacramento State win its next game (Saturday at Cal State Fullerton), this year's team would become the first in the Div. I era, and second in school history to accomplish the feat - the 1985-86 team was also 6-1.
Sacramento State's only loss came to nationally ranked Colorado, and the Hornets trailed by just five points with under four minutes left in that game. The Hornets improved to 3-0 at home, and 70-30 inside the Nest dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
UC Merced, an NAIA team that plays in the California Pacific Conference, is currently 6-2 this season. The Hornets and Bobcats were playing for just the third time ever, with the Hornets winning at home in each of those contests by an average of 32.3 points.
As has been the case all season, Sacramento State's defense, currently ranked fourth in the nation in points allowed, was ferocious. UC Merced scored under 20 points in both halves and finished the game shooting just 26% (13-51) from the field and 23% (5-22) from the 3-point line. The Bobcats were also forced into 19 turnovers and Sacramento State converted those miscues into 23 points. The Hornets are now allowing just 49.0 points per game.
The Hornets broke things open by going on a 17-0 run over a seven-minute span in the first half. The run extended the team's lead from 12-9 at the 10 minute mark all the way to 29-9 with three minutes before halftime. Sacramento State led by more than 20 points the final 17:12 of the contest, opening up a lead as large as 38 points before settling for the 36-point victory.
All 14 active Hornets on the roster played at least five minutes in tonight's game, and 12 of them cracked the scoring column. Sacramento State finished the game shooting 52% (28-54) from the field and 46% (6-13) from the 3-point line. The Hornets had healthy advantages over the Bobcats in rebounding (40-29), points in the paint (40-12), points off turnovers (23-8) and second chance points (14-5). Of Sacramento State's 40 rebounds, 11 came on the offensive glass.
Swingman Bryce Fowler led the way with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting go with five assists. Forward Osi Nwachukwu posted 12 points, five rebounds and drew a team-high four fouls, and Ethan Esposito chipped in eight points and five rebounds. Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa was a massive +27 in plus/minus to go with eight points (2-4 3FG) and six rebounds, Joshua Patton had six points and two blocked shots, and Brandon Davis finished with five points, four assists and two steals. Patton, who set the Sacramento State program record for most career blocks on Saturday, now has 156 blocked shots.
Spencer Monteiro had two points, two assists and a team-high seven rebounds in 11 active minutes, and Jordan Cooke-Harper added eight points and four rebounds. Chibueze Jacobs had four rebounds, James Bridges five points, Ryan Blackmon two points and two assists, and William FitzPatrick added two points.
No UC Merced player finished with more than eight points as the Bobcats had 17 points in the first half, and 19 in the second half. The Hornets held a 35-17 lead at halftime.
Tonight marked the first of just two home games during the month of December. Sacramento State will play at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday and Santa Clara on Dec. 14 before its final non-conference game of the year against Cal Poly inside the nest on Dec. 18.
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