UC Irvine’s size bothers Hornets in blowout loss

State Hornet Staff

UC Irvine’s inside presence was too much for the Sacramento State men’s basketball team at The Nest Saturday night.

While Sac State’s tallest player stands at 6-feet-11-inches, the Anteaters featured three players above seven feet, including 7-foot-6 freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye.

Though Ndiaye only scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds, Irvine had 30 more points in the paint than the Hornets, leading them to a 79-53 win.

“What was disappointing to me tonight was in the first half we were pretty good, but in the second half they out-hustled us,” said Sac State head coach Brian Katz.

For the first 17 minutes of the game, the Hornets led by as much as 10 points, but were outscored 48-21 in the second half and shot 28 percent from the field.

“We just lost our aggression,” Katz said. “Give them credit, they are a Pac-12-talent-level team.”

The Hornets had a 32-22 lead with 3:52 left in the first half that was led by sophomore guard Cody Demps. He scored 12 of his 16 points during a run that included a pair of 3-pointers.

“I definitely felt confident shooting the ball,” Demps said. “I am just trying to fill my role [on this team].”

Since the start of the season, Demps has been inserted into the starting lineup and has seen his offensive production increase. In five games thus far, he has averaged five more points and rebounds per game than in the 2012-13 season.

“He does a little bit of everything, but need needs to play like that,” Katz said, mentioning Demps’ 16 points. “We need more offensive pop from him, and we are starting to get it.”

Irvine cut the Hornets’ lead down to just 32-31 at halftime. Irvine did not let up when it returned from the locker room as Ndiaye and senior guard Chris McNealy scored the first 13 Anteater points to give them a 10-point lead after the first four minutes.

Sac State senior forward Jordan Salley was just one of the players that had to guard Ndiaye during the game.

“He was a big guy and it was hard to keep him out (of the paint),” Salley said. “He was physical, but I felt like I was just as physical, if not more.”

After Salley tipped in a basket with 11 minutes to go bringing the score to 57-45, Irvine extended its lead going on a 22-8 run.

The Hornets’ backcourt feature juniors Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney, who finished with nine and 10 points respectively. Garrity only made two of his 11 shots in 33 minutes of play.

“He is going to get a lot of attention right now, but that is the way it goes,” Katz said. “He is going to have to be ready for that and he knows it.”

Despite the loss, Katz said he likes his team, but knows there is a lot of room for growth.

“You want to win every game, but if you don’t win, we can take something from it and get better,” Katz said.

Sac State will travel to Texas for the first time since 2009 when it faces UTEP (4-4) this Saturday. Tipoff is at 6:05 p.m.

Ryan can be reached on Twitter at @rskuhn