Sac State men’s basketball suffers 89-56 loss to Utah

Hornets failed to hold on after competitive first half


Nate Peterson

Senior guard William FitzPatrick takes a jump shot against the University of Utah on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at the Jon M. & Karen Huntsman Facility. The Hornets were defeated by the Utes 89-56 in their first taste of conference play this season. Photo courtesy of Nate Peterson from Utah Athletics. Graphic created in Canva.

Jordan Latimore

After dominating in their first two games against quality Division II opponents, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team was harshly welcomed to its first taste of PAC-12 play this season in a 89-56 loss to Utah at the Jon M. & Karen Huntsman facility Saturday.

The Hornets (1-1, 0-0 Big Sky) had a very impressive showing in the first half against the Utes (2-0, 0-0 PAC-12), but Sac State simply could not overcome the offensive explosiveness from Utah.

Sac State got punched in the mouth early in this game to start with Utah getting out to a 9-0 run within the first six minutes of action. Led by junior center Branden Carlson who broke down the interior of Sac State with his drives to the basket and second chance points off rebounds, the Utes were able to put constant pressure on the Hornets’ defense. 

“Defensively, I thought our effort was pretty good, but we didn’t finish the possessions and the offensive rebounds ultimately wore us down,” said head coach Brandon Laird. “We got to do a better job rebounding and chasing down some of those 50-50 balls.”

The Hornets also saw major struggles on offense early with Sac State shooting 38% from the field on their first 13 shot attempts and just 2-5 from three in the first 10 minutes of play.

“[Utah] is a very big, long and physical team, they made it tough for us tonight,” said senior forward Bryce Fowler. “Shooting the right shots in our offense will give us confidence. I think it’s something we need to emphasize more.”

Despite the struggles, the Hornets managed to make a 10-5 run at the 8:59 mark after a couple of tough threes from senior guard William FitzPatrick to make the score 20-28. This run ignited some offensive swagger late in the half that allowed them to claw their way back into the game and cut the Utah lead to as low as six.

“The one thing we can control every single night is our effort, and that needs to be the staple of our playing style,” FitzPatrick said.

However, Utah went on another run to close the half with more defensive breakdowns for Sac State that gave the Utes a 45-30 lead going into the break. 

The offensive surge Utah had to close the first half bled into the second half, and Sac State simply had nothing to stop it. 

Carlson, who already put up 15 points in the first half, finished the game with 21 points and was a catalyst for Utah’s offensive arsenal in the next period scoring in a variety of ways including aggressive takes to the rim and efficient three-point shooting.

Sac State could not overcome the firepower from Utah or pull out the victory, but the Hornets are still keeping their heads high heading into the later part of their schedule.

“I’ll promise you that we’re not going to lose our confidence,” Laird said. “We’re not gonna lose our confidence, especially offensively, we’re going to attack and be aggressive.”

Sac State’s next game will be on the road on Monday, Nov. 15 against Cal Poly at Alex G. Spanos Stadium and can be live streamed on ESPN+.