Hornets beat Incarnate Word for sixth win

Justin+Strings+moves+the+ball+down+the+court+just+before+making+a+basket+while+Mitchell+Badillo+trys+to+defend+during+Sacramento+State%27s+men%27s+basketball+game+against+Incarnate+Word+on+Monday%2C+Dec.+7%2C+2015+at+the+Hornets+Nest.

Justin Strings moves the ball down the court just before making a basket while Mitchell Badillo trys to defend during Sacramento State’s men’s basketball game against Incarnate Word on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 at the Hornets Nest.

Mike McGough

The Hornets celebrated the return to their home court Monday night, as men’s basketball won 73-70 over the University of the Incarnate Word.

The win pushed Sacramento State to a 6-2 start to the season and a 4-1 home record.

“We’re happy to win, really excited about being 6-2,” said Sac State coach Brian Katz. “We beat a pretty good team. Last year this team went to the [CollegeInsider.com Postseason] Tournament; they won 18 games … so we knew we’d have our hands full.”

Sac State and Incarnate Word had never faced each other before Monday’s game. Until 2013-14, the Cardinals were a Division II team.

Forward Justin Strings and guard Marcus Graves both had a big night for Sac State. Graves scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field in 36 minutes, and Strings scored 23 points off the bench, including a 3-of-6 mark in 3-pointers.

“We just stuck to our game plan, and we just stuck with our normal offense,” Strings said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me open, and we all got good looks tonight. And it’s just nice to be able to make them.”

The Hornets started the game on a very hot note, opening with a 12-0 lead before Incarnate Word hit its first shot more than five minutes in. Sac State led by as many as 17 points in the first half before the Cardinals cut it to a 42-35 Hornet advantage at halftime.

The Cardinals never took a lead but mounted a comeback effort in the second half, tying the score at 56-56 with 6:20 left to play. Both teams traded baskets with the score tight until Strings hit a big 3-pointer at the 3:27 mark to put the Hornets up by five.

Shawn Johnson of Incarnate Word hit a three-quarter-court shot at the final buzzer, but with the deficit already at six, it was too little too late.

At the 12:59 mark in the first half, Sac State guard Cody Demps was elbowed in the face by opposing forward Jerred Kite following a rebound. Demps exited the game bleeding from above his left eye, and Kite was charged with a flagrant foul. Graves took the foul shots for Demps, missing both.

Demps re-entered the game at the 10:23 mark and went on to tally 14 points and a team-high six assists in 38 minutes.

After the game, Katz described Demps’ cut as “pretty deep” and said it required stitches.

Incarnate Word edged out Sac State in the rebound game by a margin of 34-33.

The win followed up a 66-61 road loss at UC Davis last Wednesday.

“I don’t think there was any difference, really, from Davis to this game,” Graves. “I think it’s just, as coach said, ball didn’t bounce our way [at Davis], but we’re going to keep fighting every game, and the ball did bounce our way, obviously, and we got a big win tonight.”

Sac State will play on the road until after Christmas, traveling to Portland this Saturday and taking on Stanford on Dec. 21.