Sac State dominated by North Dakota

Chris Bullock

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks dominated from start to finish as they came away with a 97-71 win over the Sacramento State Hornets at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Saturday in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Sac State (11-16, 4-11 in the Big Sky Conference) couldn’t get anything going offensively against North Dakota (15-12, 10-6 Big Sky) in the first half, and the only positive of note was sophomore guard Justin Strings scoring 17 points behind five three’s. Strings finished the contest with 26 points.

The second half was much of the same for Sac State as North Dakota controlled the tempo and the scoreboard. The Fighting Hawks had leads as big as 30 points in the second half.

Sac State finished the first half 9-29 from the floor and 24-64 for the game. With four minutes left in the first half, the Hornets only had two players with points (Strings and junior center Eric Stuteville who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds). North Dakota finished the first half 18-31 from the floor and 36-57 for the game in comparison.

North Dakota got another offensive outburst from junior guard Quinton Hooker who finished the day with 34 points (11-12 FG), six rebounds, and four assists. Hooker scored 38 points last Thursday against the Portland State University Vikings in a 80-77 Fighting Hawks win. He is now averaging 19.3 points per game.

Sac State head coach Brian Katz felt North Dakota’s defense and the Hornets’ untimely turnovers were the key to the game.

“The big thing was defense in the first half and the turnovers that led to transition [points],” Katz said. “We ran into a buzz saw tonight.”

Katz was assessed a technical foul late in the first half for arguing with the refs. When asked to comment, Katz said he is contractually-obligated not to speak on the refs.

Coach Katz said the silver lining from tonight’s game was the offensive rebounds that Hornsby (seven) and Stuteville (four) were able to get.

Sac State got 11 points from freshman guard Jeff Wu, four assists from sophomore guard Marcus Graves, and three steals from senior guard Cody Demps in addition to Strings and Stuteville’s production.

North Dakota also got contributions from sophomore forward Drick Bernstine (12 points, six assists), senior forward Dustin Hobaugh (11 points), and junior guard Corey Baldwin (11 points, eight rebounds).

North Dakota celebrated senior day Saturday, as it was the team’s final home game of the season.

Sac State started Demps, Graves, Strings, junior guard Nick Hornsby and Stuteville. Coach Katz has frequently used this lineup to start games since Demps returned form injury.

“I like the fire and bite the lineup brings. [They] bring aggression. We probably won’t make any changes for the [Big Sky Tournament]. Everything is aiming towards the first week of March,” Katz said.

Sac State finishes the season with a two-game home stand that starts next Thursday. The Hornets will face the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds (4-21, 2-13 Big Sky) at the Nest, Thursday, March 3 at 7:05 p.m. The Thunderbirds are currently last in the Big Sky Conference.

Look for a preview of Sac State’s final two games early next week on, and stay up-to-date by checking out the live-tweeting of the games by following @sh_sports.

North Dakota will finish the season with two road games. The Fighting Hawks will head to Missoula, Montana to face the University of Montana Grizzlies (18-8, 13-2 Big Sky) next Thursday at the Dahlberg Arena for the first of the two road games. The Grizzlies are currently tied for first place in the Big Sky Conference.

All games will be available to stream for free via