Sac State men’s basketball escapes with overtime win against Denver

Hornets snap 4-game losing streak with thrilling 87-85 victory


Arely Duran

Senior Sac State guard Zach Chappell bringing up the ball against Denver Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in The Nest. The Hornets snapped their four-game losing streak with a thrilling 87-85 overtime win against the Pioneers behind Chappell’s 24 points and game-winning layup.

Jordan Latimore, Sports Editor

Why Sacramento State men’s basketball seems to always be coming down to the wire is unsolved, but what was known coming into their game against Denver in The Nest on Wednesday was that the Hornets were 0-2 in overtime games this season. 

Head coach David Patrick said he always had a feeling his team would turn the corner, and the guys just needed to go through the process. 

“We had the same situation at Southern Utah and [Zach Chappell] pulled up for three and I was like, ‘I don’t think that was a great shot,’” Patrick said. “[He] didn’t make the referee make a call.” 

In extra minutes once again, the senior guard got another chance to prove he can get his team over the hump and with 20 seconds left, Chappell got to the cup and sealed an 87-85 win for the Hornets, ending their four-game losing streak in thrilling fashion. 




“We get in the same position tonight, he drives it and gets a bucket,” Patrick said. “That’s growth by the team.”

The Hornets’ offensive start to this game was about as bad as it could’ve been. Sac State went 0-7 from the field, notably missing a bunch of easy at-the-rim looks.

Meanwhile, Denver came out with energy on both ends looking to show out against Sacramento State, the only opponent who defeated them this season. 

Denver opened the matchup with a vengeance, getting out to a lead over the Hornets that hit 10-0 at one point in the first half.

Then everything changed. 

Instead of praying on a shot that wasn’t falling, Sac State stuck to what they knew — getting stops on defense. 

The Hornets defense started to click after the deficit was as big as 12-2, using their press to drain the Denver shot clock and get in the passing lanes.

After missing their first seven shots, Sac State went on an 11-6 run at the 13 minute mark to cut the lead to seven at 18-11.

The Hornets’ ability to get buckets in transition and offensive rebounds helped them claw their way back in the first half.

A lot of credit for their comeback is attributed to junior forward Akol Mawein, who was a huge offensive spark for a dry-spelled Sac State offense. He finished with 15 points and four rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

Riding the play of Mawein, the Hornets were able to climb all the way back to an even score going into halftime at 33-33. 

“It was hard at first, you know, trying to get adjusted coming from a program where I didn’t really have a big role,” Mawein said. “[Having] good people in my ear just telling me every day: keep killing them, that really gets me going.”

Despite not scoring a single point in the first half, Chappell carried the load in the second with a three right out the gate.

“I’m just blessed man,” Chappell said. “I’m just thankful that coach trusted me with the ball.” 

Sac State was finally seeing the good looks they’ve created on offense turn into some execution. Sophomore guard Austin Patterson and senior forward Hunter Marks combined for 19 points on the night.

Though Chappell was able to anchor the load for the Hornets offensively, Denver was not going away.

Denver junior guard Tommy Bruner finished with 15 second-half points and forced the referees to make a lot of tough calls as Denver got 12 attempts from the free-throw line compared to the Hornets’ four. 

“They’re a really good team, as you saw you, you’re up 10 and they keep coming,” Patrick said. “We made some, some silly mistakes, but some of that you tip your hat to them for making us make some of those errors.”

The rest of the second half was simply a slugfest, with both teams looking to take an edge. In total the matchup saw nine lead changes and nine ties. 

After a late run was charged by Bruner, Denver took a 71-67 lead with close to 26 seconds remaining.

Down two possessions with about less than a quarter of a minute remaining, who were the Hornets going to go to for a chance to pull this one out? 

The better question is “who else?” — Chappell.


Chappell was able to drive and score the game with under five seconds remaining.

Denver, having to travel full court to get a shot off, missed a game-winning jumper on the next possession and sent the game to overtime.

This game found itself tied up again at 85-85 with 20 seconds left in overtime after a three point make from Denver’s sophomore forward ​​Touko Tainamo, and Sac State needed just one more from their guy.

In an aggressive drive to the rim, Chappell got by his defender and laid the ball in to give the Hornets an 87-85 lead.

“The lane was open, but my job was easy,” Chappell said. “I’m just so thankful for everybody else.”

Having to travel the full distance of the court once again, Denver was barely able to get off a shot near half court that clanked the back of the rim — that was the ball game.

“He’s ‘Zach-cramento,” Patrick said. “He bought in from the first day I got here and he works at it, he’s in the gym all the time.”

The Hornets’ next game is at home in The Nest Saturday against Long Beach State.