Sac State Men’s Basketball suffers fourth straight defeat in 70-65 loss against Northern Arizona

Hornets remain near the bottom of Big Sky standings


Wes Salonen, NAU Athletics

Senior forward Bryce Fowler (23) attempting to make a cross-court pass against Northern Arizona Monday, Jan. 24th, 2022 in Walkup Skydome at NAU. Fowler finished with 16 points in the Hornets’ 70-65 loss to the Lumberjacks that put them at 1-7 in conference play.

Jordan Latimore

Rock bottom.

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team came into the weekend 3-game road trip with something to prove to the Big Sky after a 1-6 start in conference play.

After their 70-65 loss against Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Monday evening in the Walkup Skydome, it’s clear the Hornets still have to prove whether or not they can even finish close games.

“We just haven’t been able to find the right answers yet,” head coach Brandon Laird said. “We’re competing, we’re trying to correct the mistakes, we just keep coming up short.”

The Hornets (5-10, 1-7 Big Sky) were engaged in a competitive low-scoring battle with the Lumberjacks (6-11,2-4 Big Sky) from the opening tip. 

Both teams early in this matchup struggled to put together an extensive series on offense while the defensive intensity was huge. Sac State and Northern Arizona combined for 20 first-half turnovers.

“The road always creates tough environments,” senior guard William FitzPatrick said. “It takes an extra level of focus and we are right there offensively and about to turn the corner.”

The Hornets and Lumberjacks struggled to shoot effectively as well, as both teams shot 40% or below for the entire half. With 12 minutes remaining before the break, the score was 7-7, setting the blueprint for a low-scoring game that ensured any scoring as a premium to both teams.

The offensive synergy of the matchup would eventually pick up, as junior guard Zach Chappell carried the load for the Hornets. He finished with 11 first-half points and deflated the Lumberjack runs.

Despite the slight scoring punch, the Hornets were trailing the Lumberjacks 27-25 heading into the locker room.

Sac State’s ability to contain a Northern Arizona team in 3 points, shooting to just 27 points in the first 20 minutes, was a considerable feat since NAU ranks third in the conference. 

Then the second half arrived, and everything changed.

Northern Arizona came right out of the gates in the second half and slashed back-to-back threes after going 4 for 16 to start the game.

After the Lumberjacks started knocking down shots to put the Hornet defense in rotation and Sac State failed to develop a consistent flow on offense, it became a recipe for disaster for the Hornets.

Late in the second half, NAU was able to erupt on a 7-0 run that comfortably distanced themselves from the Hornets. Even though Sac State made a slight 11-4 run to close the game, it wasn’t enough, and the Hornets lost their fourth game in a row.

We just continue to have faith in each other and the coaching staff and our game plans,” sophomore forward Cameron Wilbon said. “We all have a positive mindset because we know what we’re capable of and we’re so close to where we want to be.”

Sac State’s next game will be at home in The Nest on Thursday, Jan. 27 against Idaho State at 7 p.m.