Sac State men’s basketball season turns in opposite direction after hot start

Hornets look back on the season and ahead to Big Sky Tournament


Sara Nevis

The Sac State men’s basketball team gathers during a timeout in the second half of the conference game against Montana State at The Nest at Sac State on Jan. 23, 2021. The Hornets are entering the Big Sky Tournament after winning their last game against Montana State 74-73 on Saturday.

Brandon Bailey

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team got off to a good start on the season with a 4-2 record, but toward the end of the season, it has been the exact opposite for the Hornets as they head into the Big Sky Tournament with six losses in their last eight games. 

Head coach Brian Katz said that the team’s success in the first half of the season came from the lack of competition they were up against. In the first six games, they won games against Bethesda College, University of Idaho and Fresno Pacific. 

“If we’re going to be a hundred percent honest, the schedule was easier a little earlier and I think we took advantage of it,” Katz said. “The schedule early was not nearly as difficult as it has been lately.” 

Katz admitted that playing a season under the conditions of COVID-19 has been a challenge as well. There have been 10 canceled games throughout the Hornets’ schedule, and in December the team went three weeks without facing an opponent after winning their first three games of the year. 

“If you talk to any coach at this level who’s gone through it, it affects everything you know your chemistry, your practice routine, your conditioning, skill and mindset,” Katz said. “We don’t want any excuses. Everyone’s had different challenges. We’ve had ours, they’ve had theirs, but in the end, basketball is like life: you get what you put into it. You get what you deserve.”

Junior guard Brandon Davis made it clear that these cancellations were not an excuse, but he said the team was affected from a mental standpoint. 

“No one wants to say that it does, but not playing for a while and flying out to a game and then it being canceled, it takes a toll on your mental health,” Davis said. “And then having to quarantine after guys get it, you can’t work out. So it definitely affects our gameplay as well as our mindset, in terms of fatigue throughout the season.”

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Davis said that the uncertainty of this season and not knowing whether a game would be canceled or not was the biggest challenge of COVID-19. However, despite the struggles of COVID-19, the team looks to turn things around as they wrap up the season. 

As the Hornets prepare for the Big Sky Tournament, senior guard Bryce Fowler said they are focused on improving their rebounding and transition defense. 

Fowler said the team also struggled to play a complete game on both ends of the floor throughout the season, and teams were similar and tougher as they got deeper into their schedule. 

“You really have to bring it every night and I just think we didn’t consistently bring it on all three tiers of the game,” Fowler said. 

As the Hornets prepare for the Big Sky tournament on Wednesday, Fowler said that the Hornets are focused on improving in all three facets of the game: offense, defense and rebounding. 

“We weren’t good enough to win, not playing a complete game,” Fowler said. “I think that’s what we struggled with, not putting it all together. So that’s what we’re trying to do here  — we’re trying to put it all together before we get to Boise.”