Sac State men’s basketball cruises to 58-43 victory against UC Merced

Hornets get out to a 3-1 start after win in home-opener


Julie Blunt

Junior forward Cameron Wilbon dunking against UC Merced Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 at The Nest. The Hornets edge out the Bobcats 58-43, earning a seismic victory in their home opener.

Jordan Latimore

A timeout at the 9:55 mark in the first half is all it really took for the Hornets to save themselves in their first basketball game in The Nest this season.

After a sluggish start that was met with nothing but missed jumpers to start the evening off for the Sac State men’s basketball team in a home opener against UC Merced, head coach David Patrick challenged his team very early on — and they responded.

“The game plan was to play inside out, not outside in,” Patrick said. “You hit 14 threes in San Diego and you hit some big threes at Denver; human nature is: I’ll shoot if I’m open.”

Despite the shooting struggles, the Hornets edged out UC Merced 58-43 after a three-game road trip to open the year.

Things began very high-paced, with both teams getting out in transition early on. 

Looking to shoot the lights out, The Hornets started out with several consecutive plays being drawn up for senior guard Zach Chappell and junior guard Austin Patterson. Two players who let it fly as soon as they get space. 

Despite the tempo, the game was tied 5-5 6 minutes into the first half; both teams shot poorly out of the gate.

It took a lot of time for the Hornets — and a bunch of missed threes and sloppy passing before it finally clicked. The Bobcats could not handle the Sac State down in the paint. 

Sac State got wherever they wanted,  but they couldn’t knock anything down. The Hornets started off the game shooting 4-13 from the field.

“I thought we were too gun-happy, early,” Patrick said. “[We] went away from our strength, which is our post-play.”

Sac State gained some traction after a timeout midway through the first half. Patrick encouraged his team to pound the rock inside and at the rim to succeedagainst a Bobcat team that held  the Hornets to a whopping 4-13 from the three-point line.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Hornets found a way to get downhill and create easy opportunities, especially in transition. The Hornets led 39-25 at the 13:39 mark in the second half.

Much of the Hornets’ success that separated themselves can also be attributed to  senior center: Callum McRae, who finished the game with 14 points and 14 boards. McRae’s physicality on both ends helped the Hornets prevail in a matchup that lacked shot-making from both squads. 

“I didn’t wanna be too selfish, but I also needed to play on a single coverage,” McRae said.  “I’m just gonna play unselfishly and see whatever comes.”

There was still life within UC Merced; the Bobcats never wavered. They made a late run to trim the Hornet lead to nine late in the second half.

The Hornets leaned on their off-the-bench catalyst, junior forward Cameron Wilbon, to keep the foot on the gas and help Sac State cruise to a seismic win.

Wilbon delivered offensively, putting up 12 points on 60% shooting.

“I just do whatever’s asked,” Wilbon said. “Coach asked me to come off the bench for now to be that spark, ’cause I’m so versatile.”

The Hornets’ next game will be Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, against UC Davis at Golden 1 Center at 7:00 p.m for the Causeway Classic.