Sac State men’s basketball suffers disappointing 71-56 loss against UC San Diego

Hornets couldn’t hold on to first half lead


Dominique Williams

Senior guard William FitzPatrick playing tight on-ball defense against UC San Diego Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Hornets Nest. The Hornets suffered a 71-56 loss to the Tritons after failing to hold on to a first half lead.

Jordan Latimore

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team did everything they needed Saturday night at the Hornets Nest to stop UC San Diego at what they do best, shooting the three ball.

Coming into this game, the Tritons made nearly half of all the three point field goals they took this season, and the Hornets forced them to go 18%. Yet, UC San Diego dominated Sac State in every other statistical category while handing the Hornets a substantial 71-56 loss.

It was a very tight first half between the Hornets (2-2) and the Tritons (4-0). Defensively, Sac State brought the usual intensity they always bring to start off games, stringing together multiple defensive stops and forcing early turnovers.

For a team like UC San Diego that has nothing but snipers on the floor, Sac State’s ability to disrupt the Tritons flow on offense was critical to their early success.

“I thought the guys did a great job of executing the game plan in the first half,” said head coach Brandon Laird . “I thought we had some chances in the first half to open that game up.”

The Hornets struggles on offense however are what truly made the matchup as close as it was. Despite opening the game with a 6-3 run, Sac State as a team shot just 37% from the field and 20% from three for the first half.

Although Sac State was able to  get quality looks through very clever and effective ball movement, they just couldn’t find the bottom of the net consistently in the half. Senior guard Zach Chappell, who is the team’s second leading scorer, shot just 3-11 in the first 20 minutes of action.

“I think every shot, at least in the first half, Zach took was a great shot, and those are shots that as a team we’ve seen Zach make hundreds and hundreds of times,” said Laird. “I think it’s one of those things, we need to gain some experience and go through these battles.”

Senior forward Bryce Fowler  was able to shoulder the load on offense for the Hornets regardless of the team’s overall struggles. Fowler’s scoring package was on full display with his crafty turnaround jumpers and ability to create shot opportunities in isolation, finishing with a team-high 13 first half points. Fowler helped secure  a 29-27 halftime lead for the Hornets.

In the second half, the Hornets saw their momentum hit a screeching halt. Though it saw some back-and-forth flow for the first few minutes of the second half with many lead changes and ties, the Tritons saw an offensive surge at  the nine minute mark and the Hornets simply had no answers.

UC San Diego went on a 14-0 run that was fueled by constant drives to the paint and Sac State’s inability to stay competitive in the rebound battle. In the second half alone, the Hornets were outrebounded by the Tritons 22-14. 

“That’s our main weakness, figuring out how to play a team game fully disciplined with all the right details and habits for 40 minutes,” said junior guard Deshaun Highler. “We’re never gonna hang our heads too much over one game, it’s college basketball, everyone’s trying to get to the tournament, we’re just going to keep building.”

The run allowed UC San Diego to create a  58-44 lead over Sac State at the 6 minute and 39 second mark, allowing them to ensure a sizable 71-56 defeat for the Hornets.

“Some of the best lessons you learn  when you lose,” said Fowler. “I think that this will be good for us and I think we’ll just be able to kind of move on and figure out where we’re struggling and get better in those areas.”

The Hornets next match will be the annual Causeway Classic against UC Davis on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2021 at the Golden 1 Center at 7:30 p.m.