Men?s basketball team stays hopeful despite losing streak


men’s basketball sac state:Hornets? center Alpha N?Diaye goes up for a shot during a game on Nov. 5 against Menlo.:File Photo

AJ Taylor

Since the season started for the men’s basketball team, it has been a struggle to put wins on the board.

So far this season the Hornets are 4-15 and still face the possibility of qualifying for the Big Sky Tournament. If they reach the Big Sky Tournament they will open up the opportunity for themselves to qualify for the NCAA Tournament; a feat the Hornets have yet to accomplish since the 1987-88 season when the team made it to the Division II tournament.

The top six universities in the Big Sky qualify for the Big Sky Tournament at the end of the season. Sacramento State is 1-7 in Big Sky play; its competition, Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, are tied for sixth place, both are 2-4 in Big Sky play.

“It’s going to take some wins, but we’re (two games) back,” said head coach Brian Katz. “The way we are, as many close games as we’ve lost &- four in overtime &- it might be that we win one and all of the sudden we win five, because winning is a confidence thing as well. Our guys are confident enough that they can play with most anybody.”

Almost as if Katz saw it coming, Saturday night the Hornets were the ones celebrating after a close game, when they edged out Eastern Washington 57-55.

The final minutes have not been kind to the Hornets this season. On day one, against CSU Bakersfield, the Hornets gave up a five-point lead in the final 13 seconds and lost in overtime. The Hornets again felt the wrath of a late-game loss when they gave up a seven-point lead in the final seven minutes of regulation and lost in overtime at McNeese State. And, once more, against Idaho State, the Hornets led by five with five remaining minutes and lost by five.

Their struggles may have begun on opening night. Facing CSU Bakersfield at home the Hornets led for 38 minutes and 43 seconds &- 97 percent of regulation time. Somehow, though, the Hornets allowed the game to go into overtime, and would eventually lose 80-78.

But on Thursday night, facing first-place Northern Colorado (10-7, 6-0), it was the Hornets who made a late-game push.

With just over five minutes left in the game the Hornets trailed by 14, but after a 19-8 Hornet run, nearly to the end of the game, the deficit was cut to three points.

The Hornets did eventually take the loss 77-72 after the Bears sunk two final free throws, and the Hornets missed a 3-point attempt with only 13 seconds remaining.

“We haven’t been closing games out,” Katz said. “There’s four (games) in that period &- three of them (went to) overtime &- that went down to the last play, and we lost all four.”

Although the team has been on a losing streak, the head coach remains optimistic.

“Maybe losing a couple tough ones early you create a little bit of a cycle,” Katz said. “You hope not. You hope you can reverse it. It only takes one close win to get over the hump and fix it all up.”

Despite that the team is currently sitting at the bottom of the standings in the Big Sky Conference with a 1-7 record, it still hopes that the season can be turned around.

“We just need to become “one team’ and do everything we can to win more games and make it to the tournament,” said center Alpha N’Diaye, “because we still have that chance.”

The men don’t think the fight is over.

“We need to continue playing hard, continue practicing hard and realizing it isn’t over &- we just need to go out there and give it everything we got,” said guard Sultan Toles-Bey.

The last time the Sac State men saw the playoffs was during the 2005-06 season when they finished 15-15.

But that streak could end this season. The Hornets have put up a strong contest in each of their last two games, and the way the Big Sky has played out so far &- the tournament is open to just about anyone.

The Hornets play eighth- place Idaho State on Thursday. The Hornets are looking to pay back the Bengals after they previously gave Sac State an overtime loss.

“I think the guys are looking forward to the game, to getting some redemption,” Toles-Bey said. “I think one win will really trigger something good.”

AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected]