Sac State men’s basketball neutralizes NDNU 74-53 in home opener


Thomas Frey - The State Hornet

Sacramento State junior guard Jordan Tolbert dribbles past Notre Dame de Namur University sophomore guard Stephen Baity Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the Nest. Tolbert finished with eight points, seven assists, two steals and just one turnover in a 74-53 home-opening win over NDNU.

Coming off a loss to begin its season, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team defeated winless Notre Dame de Namur University 74-53 in its home opener Tuesday at the Nest.

However, the Hornets (1-1) began the night trailing against Division II opponent NDNU (0-3) after the Argonauts took a 14-10 lead on a 3-pointer from sophomore point guard Stephen Baity with 15:29 remaining in the first half. NDNU ended its night shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 40 percent at the 3-point line, which Sac State coach Brian Katz said was a discouraging after holding a better Colorado State team to just 72 points on Friday.

“I think we’re (a step slow) getting out defensively and didn’t have high hands, and as a result, they made some threes,” Katz said. “Ironically, we had a great defensive game against Colorado State. There, we held them to 38 percent from two and 25 from three, (and) so a little disappointed with our defense.”

Sac State — which ended its night shooting 60.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc as a team — answered the Argonauts’ offensive aggressiveness with a 10-point run that concluded with a 3-pointer from senior forward Justin Strings. This shot put the Hornets up 23-14 with 8:06 left in the first half and established a lead that they never relinquished.

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“I felt, early, we struggled a little bit on defense, and I think that affected us in a way,” Strings said after finishing with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. “They played some zone, and we haven’t seen much of that this year, but I think, overall, we started the game a little tentative on defense, but that picked up in the second half and helped us get the win.”

Leading 42-30 at the end of the first half, Sac State sophomore forward Joshua Patton — who finished with a career-high 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field — began the second period of play with four consecutive free throws. Patton, who shot 7-of-10 from the free-throw line and had seven total rebounds, concluded the second period by scoring eight more points to help the Hornets bully their way to 74-53 final.

“I was really encouraged that we came down and pounded the ball inside to Joshua Patton every time down the court,” Katz said, referring to the change of pace in the second half. “And we talked about that and said, ‘We’ve got to get him some touches down there,’ and our guys were really geared into him which we need to be.”

The Hornets also saw notable contributions from a pair of Western Texas Junior College transfer guards Kevin Hicks and Jordan Tolbert. Hicks posted 13 points (6-of-10 from the field) and two assists in a team-high 30 minutes on the court, while Tolbert notched eight points, a game high of seven assists, two steals and just one turnover.

“I think (Tolbert’s) got a chance to be pretty good,” Katz said after mentioning he’s only been with the program for four months. “He’s real feisty, (and) he’s a guy that can kind of give you whatever you need, and with Marcus (Graves) being hurt, we’re just real lucky that we have him and Izayah (Mauriohooho-Le’afa).”

Sac State will next travel to play the University of San Francisco — which defeated Saint Francis University 75-63 on Monday — at 7:05 p.m. Friday at The Sobrato Center.