Hornets beat Thunderbirds in overtime

Andrew Brown

The Sacramento State Hornets fought their way to an overtime win Thursday night, beating the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds 69-63 at the Nest.

Sac State (12-16, 5-12 in the Big Sky Conference) outlasted Southern Utah (5-22, 3-14 in Big Sky) with tough defense and some timely free throws.

Sac State finished the game with nine blocks and seven steals. Junior center Eric Stuteville led the way for the Hornets with seven of the nine blocks, and junior forward Nick Hornsby had three of the seven steals to go along with his team high of 16 points.

Sophomore forward Justin Strings added 14 points for Sac State. Senior guard Cody Demps and sophomore guard Marcus Graves had 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Sac State head coach Brian Katz was disappointed in the offensive output Thursday, but was pleased with the team’s defensive effort.

“[Our] defense won the game for us tonight,” Katz said. “We wouldn’t have won the game without our defense. Our offense had 20 turnovers.”

The game went back and forth in the second half. No team led by more than seven in the half, and each team was within four points in the last five minutes.

Senior guards Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett both said it was a great win for the team heading into the final game of the regular season.

Southern Utah was led by junior guard Trey Kennedy and his 15 points. The Thunderbirds also got contributions from senior guard Travon Langston (11 points) and freshman forward Daniel Melifonwu (eight rebounds).

Sac State’s win came after a tough week containing a 72-67 close loss to the University of Northern Colorado Bears (9-20, 6-11 Big Sky) and a blowout 97-71 loss to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (15-13, 10-7 Big Sky).

“Winning heals all, but we’re trying to dial it in,” Katz said.

When asked if he thought the team was ready for Reno, Katz said he will decide Saturday how the team plays against the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, but that he thinks the team is prepared.

“Everything we’ve done since July 13 has led up to [the Big Sky Conference tournament]. Everything,” Katz said.

Sac State is now 10th in the Big Sky Conference, while Southern Utah sits at the 11th spot. The Big Sky Conference tournament will be March 8 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada. The State Hornet will have full coverage from Reno, including live-tweeting, interviews, and recaps of all the action.

Sac State finishes the Big Sky regular season Saturday at the Nest against the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks at 7:05 p.m. The game will have a pregame ceremony honoring senior guards Demps and Barlett for senior night. A preview for that game can be found here and by keeping up with the @sh_sports live-tweet.

Northern Arizona will finish the Big Sky regular season Saturday against the Portland State University Vikings (11-17, 7-11 Big Sky) in Portland, Oregon at the Peter W. Stott Center at 7:05 p.m.

Both games will be available free to stream on watchbigsky.com. Check out statehornet.com and @thestatehornet on Twitter for recaps, profiles, and previews of the team.