Sac State men’s basketball trounced 65-58 in conference opener

Hornets come up short against Montana after two comeback runs


Dylan McNeill

Sacramento State men’s basketball senior forward Bryce Fowler drives to the rim against Montana on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the Hornets Nest. The Hornets lost their conference opener to the Grizzlies 65-58 after finding themselves in an early 17-point deficit.

Jordan Latimore

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team dropped its Big Sky opener against the University of Montana in a 65-58 loss Thursday in the Hornets Nest. 

To say the Hornets (3-4, 0-1 Big Sky) had a bad first half against the Grizzlies (5-3, 1-0 Big Sky) would be an understatement. 

Montana got out to an early 14-2 run off of a dominant showing in the paint. At the 11-minute mark, Montana’s lead eventually hit 21-4, and Sac State seemed lifeless in the huddle after head coach Brandon Laird called several timeouts at the end of the runs.

“They set a tone early, they were more ready to go from the start,” Laird said. “That’s on me. Our guys didn’t match their rush tonight.” 

After a late timeout in the first half, the Hornets finally found a surge that allowed them to create a chance for themselves. 

At the nine-minute mark, the Hornets began their march on a vigilant 14-7 run that eventually allowed them to cut the Grizzly lead to 10 with a score of 28-18. Led by the sharpshooting from senior guard William FitzPatrick, who went four for four in the first half on threes, Sac State was able to ignite a valiant offensive effort to climb back into the game.

“Going down like that to start the game, a lot of teams are going to fold, kind of fall apart, [the comeback] talks to how connected we are,” FitzPatrick said. “It’s a huge testament to how connected we are and how bought in we are.”

Just as FitzPatrick found his jumper from deep, the game opened up for his teammates as well. Senior forward Bryce Fowler and junior center Jonathan Komagum were able to finish with a combined 10 points and help the Hornets cut the lead to one.

Going into half time, Sac State was only facing a 31-26 deficit, but the second half would only present more challenges for the Hornets despite the late first-half momentum.

Montana continued to pound the ball to the basket and create issues for the Sac State defense through drawing fouls and finishing driving opportunities. On top of the defensive struggles, the Hornets had trouble managing possessions, turning the ball over seven times in the second half and 17 total for the entire game.

“We had too many turnovers, can’t have that many turnovers in a Big Sky game and expect to win,” said sophomore forward Cameron Wilbon. ”We just got to get better.”

Though Sac State would go on another late run, they couldn’t overcome the relentlessness of Montana and would go on to lose its Big Sky opener.

The Hornets next game will be Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Hornets Nest to take on Montana State University at 1 p.m.