Sac State men’s basketball crushed by No. 17 Arizona

Hornets lose in 105-59 blowout during season’s second PAC-12 matchup


Ary Frank/Arizona Athletic

Junior guard Zach Chappell drives into the teeth of the Arizona defense Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at McKale Memorial Center. The Hornets suffered a blowout 105-59 loss against the No. 17 ranked Wildcats.

Jordan Latimore

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team saw Saturday’s game against the No. 17 ranked University of Arizona in Tucson as a great chance to grow.

After a 105-59 loss to the nationally touted Wildcats at McKale Memorial Center, some Hornets say there is a lot to take away from the matchup.

“There’s always something you can learn from a game no matter what the outcome of the score is,” said senior forward Bryce Fowler.

The Hornets (3-3) had a tall task in trying to contain the Wildcats (6-0) who were coming into Saturday’s game off an upset win against the formerly No. 4 ranked Michigan Wolverines. 

Despite the rankings and talent profile on the Arizona roster, Sac State came out swinging at the tip of the game. Senior guard William FitzPatrick hit a three in the first two minutes in response to an Arizona layup to give the Hornets an early 3-2 lead. 

However, this would be Sac State’s only lead for the rest of the evening as the Wildcats ignited a 40-minute basketball onslaught. 

Nearly 19 minutes into the first half, Arizona erupted on a two-minute 17-4 run that was fueled by utter interior dominance. Whether it was  lob dunks, drives to the basket or second chance opportunities, Arizona was running laps around the Sac State defense to open things up.

“You gotta give credit where credit’s due, you gotta shake [Arizona’s] hands,” said head coach Brandon Laird. “They’re big, they’re physical, they’re strong, they’re athletic, they defend hard. There’s a reason why they’re the [No. 17] ranked team in the country.”

One of the  themes of the game was the blatant size advantage Arionza had over Sac State, with the Wildcat bigs dominating in the rebounding department early. The Hornets were crushed on the boards in the first half 27-13.

The size mismatch was so apparent that coach Laird threw out a lineup with both of his centers just to have a fighting chance on the glass.

“I think tonight was the first time we actually played Jonu (Jonathan Komagum) and Hugo (Hugo Clarkin) together,” Laird said. “We were trying to do something tonight that we haven’t tried before. We need to find a way to be bigger and protect the rim better.”

At one point the Arizona lead hit 16 with a score of 26-10 around 10 minutes into the first half, and Sac State kept playing to its best strength: hustle. 

Despite not filling the stat sheet with any major offensive numbers, the Hornets showed out by diving for loose balls, playing physical and up close defense and never seemed to waiver when the Wildcats made a huge offensive play.

“The biggest thing is that this game isn’t going to hurt our confidence, and it’s not going to make any of us feel different about our team,” Fowler said. 

The second half saw a continuation of the offensive clinic from Arizona, and Sac State had no answers. For the Hornets, the nail in the coffin was hammered after the Wildcats started knocking down threes with Arizona shooting 66% from downtown on nine attempts.

Even after the lead grew, Sac State still put in effort. Junior forward Cameron Wilbon, who came into Saturday’s game averaging just 6.6 points per game, finished with a team-high  14 points, scoring in every facet.

“Over the summer and pre-season I put in a lot of work,” Wilbon said. “I feel like tonight I showcased that. I showed I can do a lot of different things on the court. My teammates always give me so much confidence because they know what I’m capable of, and tonight I let it show.”

The Hornets would go on to lose this game but insist development from this experience will be critical.

“It was a great experience for us tonight to come out here and compete against them,” Laird said. “I think for us, it’s about learning and rolling in developing from this experience.”

The Hornets’ next game will be home at the Hornets Nest on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, against the University of Montana at 7 p.m.