After trailing 43-41 at halftime, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team outscored Idaho State 50-33 en route to a 91-76 victory Wednesday in the Big Sky Tournament.
Sac State (13-17, 1-0 Big Sky Tournament) was led in scoring by junior guard Marcus Graves and senior forward Nick Hornsby as the pair both scored 18 points. Junior forward Justin Strings — who earned all-Big Sky second team honors Monday — added 17 points while senior center Eric Stuteville contributed 10 points along with eight rebounds. Senior guard Trevis Jackson pitched in five points off the bench and a career highs in both rebounds (eight) and assists (five).
Rebounding and second-chance points played a factor as the Hornets outrebounded the Bengals 46-28 and outscored them 25-2.
“Everyone has to go to the boards,” Hornsby told reporters after the game. “Me, (Stuteville), (Strings) and Joshua (Patton) have to go to the boards and try to get those extra possessions.”
In the first half, Idaho State played a zone that forced Sac State to take 3-point shots (6-of-16) and helped lead the Hornets to commit six turnovers. While Sac State had eight players score in the first half, Strings was the only player to score more than five points (15).
“They kind of bracketed and blanketed our guys in the low post,” Sac State coach Brian Katz told reporters after the game. “I told them we were shooting too many threes and that we hadn’t gotten enough paint touches in the first half. That’s who we are — we always want to get the ball inside.”
Defensively, the Bengals’ transition offense led to Sac State committing a total of 13 personal fouls. Idaho State was in the foul bonus half way through the first half (10:19) and went 14-of-18 from the free throw line as opposed to the Hornets, who went 3-of-5 from the line.
In the second half, the Hornets were down 51-47 before going on a 14-3 run for a 61-54 lead with 11:50 left in the half. Sac State then stretched its lead to 72-61 with 5:28 left in the game.
“We knew that we didn’t come and play defense the way that we wanted to,” Strings said in regards to the team’s first half. “They’re a really good transition team and they tried to beat us out on the fastbreak so we just had to adjust and do a better job of getting back on defense, stopping the ball and stopping penetration.”
Wednesday’s win marked the third year in a row that Sac State has advanced past the first round of the conference tournament. The Hornets also received their first neutral site win of the season after a previous 0-3 record.
Sac State will play Eastern Washington in the second round of the Big Sky Tournament at 5:35 p.m. Thursday at the Reno Events Center. On Feb. 2, the Hornets fell to Eastern Washington 77-72 in Cheney, Washington on the Eagles’ home floor.
“We’re going to have to look at the first game and see what we did wrong and what we need to improve on,” Strings said in regards to Eastern Washington. “The main thing is as long as we come out with the right mindset — we feel like we have a good chance. It’s not so much on them, but it is more on us.”
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