Sac State men’s basketball stings William Jessup 89-59

Hornets dominate in Brandon Laird’s head coach debut


Dylan McNeill

Freshman guard Chris Holley brings up the ball at half-court on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 202,1 at the Hornets Nest. Sacramento State dominated William Jessup 89-59 in the Hornets’ season opener.

Jordan Latimore

After former head coach Brian Katz retired Friday, there was a cloud hanging over the Sacramento State men’s basketball team in the locker room prior to the team’s season opener Tuesday.

Despite the turmoil, the Hornets were able to weather the storm in a dominant 89-59 win over William Jessup at the Hornets Nest.

“This is not about coach Laird, this is about the guys in the locker room,” said newly-appointed interim head coach Brandon Laird. “This is about those guys, what they went through and the emotions they felt over the last 72 to 96 hours.”

The Hornets (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky) dominated their matchup against the Warriors (0-1, 0-0 GSAC) from tipoff to the final buzzer, and it started with their defensive approach.

Sac State brought nothing but intense on-ball pressure and aggressive rim protection to start off the game. Junior center Jonathan Komagum got two early blocks in the opening possessions, setting the tone early for a Sac State defense that would also go on to force 13 first-half turnovers for the Warriors.

“I love Jonathan’s energy,” Laird said. “His presence, his energy, it allows the guys guarding the ball to know that they have your back.”

The defensive onslaught brought on by Sac State turned into automatic answers on the offensive end with back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guard Zach Chappell and senior guard William FitzPatrick to ignite an early 8-0 run.

“We talk about it all the time, set the tone in the first four minutes,” FitzPatrick said. “Anyone on any given night is going to have the hot hand, and we’re going to have full confidence in every single person on this team.”

Of the 14 Sac State players that logged minutes into the game, 13 scored at least once signaling the Hornets’ ability to score in this matchup in a variety of ways.

Though the Hornets were surging on the offensive end, their defensive assertiveness was the theme of the night and they never let the momentum sway into William Jessup’s favor.

Sac State finished the game with 24 points off of forced turnovers, and the defensive presence was too much for the Warriors to bear.

“It’s all team defense,” said junior guard Deshaun Highler. “The guys are making sure that I have confidence to guard the ball.”

At the seventh-minute mark of the second half, the Hornets’ lead hit 40 points allowing them to cruise to a comfortable win after a weekend that saw nothing but some emotional events.

“This is about the coming together of Sacramento State basketball,” Laird said. “The way [the team] came together speaks very highly of their character and speaks very highly of who they are.”

The Hornets next game will be on the road Saturday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center to face off against Utah. The matchup can be streamed live on ESPN+.