Hornets win causeway matchup 84-79


Lawrence White from UC Davis grabs the ball while Dreon Barlett stuggles to hold on during a game between Sacramento State and UC Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015 at the Hornets Nest.

Mike McGough

In their first meeting since 2013, Sacramento State and UC Davis’ men’s basketball teams faced off Tuesday night, with the Hornets coming out on top, 84-79, at the Hornets Nest.

With the win, the Hornets have launched to a 4-0 start to the season for the second time in program history.

Sac State coach Brian Katz noted that Tuesday’s victory, like the season’s first two wins at Arizona State and Seattle U, was a comeback win.

“So it’s almost like we’ve just got to wait to get behind,” Katz joked.

It was a tightly contested matchup, with eight ties and 11 lead changes. UC Davis bolted to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter before Sac State came back to overtake them 9-8. After a 40-40 halftime tie, the Aggies raced to a 48-40 advantage in less than three and a half minutes.

Senior guard Cody Demps kept his composure down the stretch. Though he struggled from the floor, shooting 4-of-13, he made 14-of-19 attempted free throws, and ending up leading both sides with 22 points in 38 minutes on the floor.

“I think the difference [was] our composure during the second half, because there were a bunch of runs in the game, obviously, [and] we ended the first half pretty bad,” Demps said.

Demps added that the team prepares for close games like Tuesday night’s.

“We do a lot of winning time situations, where we have practices where we’ll have situations where we’re down one with a minute to go, things like that, trying to recreate the environment that the end of the game would have,” Demps said.

Forward Justing Strings, coming off Sac State’s bench, posted a perfect shooting night. He went 5-for-5 from the floor, including two made 3-pointers, and pulled in six rebounds in 27 minutes played.

“It’s always nice when you’re making shots and everything, but I think the other things that we did as a team really helped,” Strings said. “We won a lot of loose balls, we crashed the boards pretty well. So I think doing everything else leads to getting open shots.”

Sac State trailed by as many as eight points and built up a lead as big as 10 in the first half, but the lead kept changing hands until the final few minutes.

After a big 3-pointer from UC Davis guard Brynton Lemar that put the Aggies up 69-66 with 5:39 remaining, the Hornets came back following a steal and layup from Demps, who then split a pair of free throws on Sac State’s next possession. Demps continued to draw foul after foul in the game’s final minutes.

Forward Josh Fox had a big night for the Aggies, scoring 16 points and pulling in 18 rebounds, with 16 on defense.

Sac State committed six turnovers to the Aggies’ 19.

The Hornets and Aggies last met almost two years ago exactly, on Nov. 26, 2013. Sac State won that game on Davis’ home court but had dropped their previous two meetings at The Nest.

Katz said his team needs to keep its underdog mentality, but continue building confidence.

“I always felt like in the past, whenever there was anything really expected of us, we had a hard time dealing with that,” Katz said. “And I think that now our guys are a little more like, ‘No, we should win our home games. Doesn’t matter who comes in here, we should win them.'”

Causeway action resumes very soon, with the Hornets heading to Davis next Wednesday for another showdown.

Tuesday’s game marked the 113th matchup between the causeway rivals. Sac State now leads the series 66-47 after the victory.

The Hornets will continue their four-game home stand with the four-team Sacramento State Invitational this weekend. Sac State hosts South Dakota for Saturday’s 3:35 p.m. start and Pacific at 5:35 p.m. on Sunday.

Sac State has never started a season 5-0.