Hornets pull off upset victory

Andrew Brown

The Sacramento State Hornets are moving on to the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament after beating the Montana State Bobcats 79-75 on Tuesday.

Rebounding was the major factor for Sac State as it stayed with Montana State the entire game and ultimately finished the game tied with the Bobcats at 38 rebounds. The Bobcats came into the game third in the Big Sky Conference in rebounding and first in offensive rebounding.

Sac State started sophomore guard Marcus Graves, senior guard Cody Demps, sophomore small forward Justin Strings, junior power forward Nick Hornsby, and junior center Eric Stuteville. The State Hornet reported last week Sac State head coach Brian Katz was going to start that lineup in the tournament.

“We wanted to set a tone early,” Katz said.

Strings led the way for Sac State, hitting eight of his 16 shots to finish with a game high 25 points. He also added seven rebounds and a block.

Katz is happy to have Montana State behind the Hornets.

“All of the games against them have been brawls. I thought they outplayed us both games earlier this season,” Katz said.

Montana State was led by senior guard Marcus Colbert. Colbert finished with 16 points, two rebounds, five assists and a steal.

“Marcus Colbert is a competitor,” Katz said, referencing Colbert’s tough style of play and his hustle.

Freshman guard Tyler Hall finished with a team-high 17 points, eight rebounds and a steal for Montana State. Junior guard Quinton Everett also chipped in with 11 points, four rebounds and three steals for the Bobcats.

Katz told the State Hornet last week that rebounding and 3-point shooting were going to be key to stopping Montana State. After tying in rebounds at 38, Sac State held the Bobcats to 6-of-28 3-point shooting on the night.

Sac State controlled most of the second half, but the game got close after a cold streak hit the Hornets. Strings snapped a nearly eight-minute long field goal drought with a three in the second half, and the Hornets never looked back. Strings said Katz drew up a good game plan and that is why he had a successful night.

Demps added 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Sac State. Demps did not play in either game against Montana State in the regular season due to a thigh injury, both Hornet losses. Demps said the time on the bench in those games helped him to understand the game plan better.

Sac State moves on to play the University of Montana Grizzlies (19-10, 14-4 Big Sky) on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada. The Hornets split the season series with the Grizzlies, losing on Jan. 9 in Missoula, Montana, 77-58, and winning 83-79 at The Nest on Feb. 6. The Hornets overcame a 20 point deficit to win that game at home.

Look for a preview of the game on Wednesday at statehornet.com. Follow the live-tweeting by tuning to @sh_sports and @thestatehornet on Twitter.

The Big Sky Conference Tournament and post game interviews can be streamed for free via watchbigsky.com, except for the championship game on Saturday, March 12, which will be aired at 5:45 p.m. on ESPNU.