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The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Sac State snatches a victory in Montana and rids an 11-game losing streak

Hornets finally fetch a win to instill hope as the end of the season nears
Alan Cheeseman / Sacramento State Athletics
Sac State breaks out of a timeout prior to its win over the Montana State Bobcats in Bozeman, Montana Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. This was the Hornets first win in Bozeman since 2021.

Sacramento State took flight to Montana with their sights set on two chances to snap a 10-game losing streak, although the Hornets pushed that skid to 11 after a close game, they made the trip worthwhile.

Thursday: Sac State: 61, Montana: 68

In the first of those opportunities against the Montana Grizzlies, the Hornets flirted with an upset but couldn’t seal the deal, losing 68-61.

The Grizzlies were due for a drop in intensity after they crushed their cross-state rivals, Montana State, in the highly touted “Brawl of the Wild.”

Sac State started the game on an 11-2 run, catapulted behind seven swift points from junior guard Austin Patterson and four free throws from senior forward Akol Mawein. Mawein would find most of his first-half success in that manner, making four separate appearances to the line and going 7-of-8 in the first frame.

Senior forward Akol Mawein shields the ball away from his defender in Missoula, Montana Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Maewin finished the game with 13 points, going 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. (Alan Cheeseman / Sacramento State Athletics)

Montana eventually got settled in and rattled off a 13-4 run of their own, tying things up at 15 nearly halfway through the first half. This back-and-forth action would make itself well-known throughout the course of the game.

The Grizzlies found a three-point edge 32-29, going into the locker room after a two-handed slam by redshirt senior Laolu Oke. Montana enjoyed a lot of easy looks above the rim in this game, totaling eight dunks.

The second half started similar to the first, with a substantial run, only this time the Hornets were on the receiving end. Montana jumped in front with an 11-4 burst, giving them a 10-point lead.

The Grizzlies maintained this advantage for the next five minutes until they stretched it out to 12, which was their largest of the game at 53-41.

Just when it looked as if the Hornets may be dead in the water, Sac State held Montana scoreless for over three minutes. Freshman guard Bailey Nunn came off the bench to provide a much-needed spark for the offensive, hitting back-to-back deep threes for the Hornets in part of a 9-0 breach.

To no surprise, the Grizzlies bit back and went on to score seven straight of their own, recapturing a 10-point lead and leaving Sac State a tough hill to climb.

“The problem with our youth is we’ll make two or three mistakes, which will end up being a six point run or a seven point run,” Patrick said. “We’ve just got to get away from that.”

Sac State would hit three more shots from deep in the final stretch, including another from Nunn, but couldn’t get enough stops on the defensive end to come out on top.

RELATED: Fouls plague Sac State down the stretch in a tough loss

Saturday: Sac State 66, Montana State: 63

It took two games, but Sac State found a way in The Treasure State, topping Montana State 66-63, for their first conference road win of the year and snapping their 11-game dry spell.

Sac State’s swarming defense paved the way for them right from the jump. Every Hornet defender was up in their opponents’ grill from the opening possession, making it tough for the Bobcats to get in any sort of consistent rhythm offensively.

“I think our defense got us over the hump,” freshman center Bowyn Beatty said. “Obviously we have our different offensive schemes, but at the same time if you don’t get it done on the defensive end it’s not going to matter.”

Coming into this game, there were a few areas where these teams had stark contrasts with one another.

One of those being the Bobcats outstanding ability to steal the ball, and the Hornets’ inability to avoid turnovers. Montana State came into this match top-50 in the country in steals per game, while Sac State came in at 339th in the country in turnovers.

“They’re a really good team defensively, especially trying to steal the ball,” said Beatty. “It was definitely something that was talked about pregame.”

Additionally, as is the case on most nights, the Hornets came in holding a massive advantage in the rebounding department.

Sac State is top-50 in the country in rebounding margin while the Bobcats barely manage to reach the top 350.

The Hornets stuck to their roots and won the rebounding battle 37-27, but more importantly won the turnover battle 14-13.

These factors kept Sac State in front for most of the contest and allowed for some second-half heroics from junior guard Austin Patterson.

Patterson was just one week removed from a career-best 29 points, and though he ended this one with 20, it may have been the best game he’s played in a green and gold uniform.

“I’m feeling very confident right now, my teammates have given me the green light and I’ve gone with it,” Patterson said. “I just keep saying we got to play for each other, not just one person is going to win us the game. That’s what we did and we came out with a win.”

Patterson did nothing but drill key basket after key basket for the Hornets in the second-half, having 18 of his 20 points post-intermission, including three triples.

Austin Patterson dribbles around two defenders in Saturday’s win over Montana State in Bozeman, Montana Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Patterson was a driving force in the second-half behind the Hornets’ win, ending with a game-high 20 points. (Alan Cheeseman / Sacramento State Athletics)

Whether it was his consistent answers to the Bobcats’ frequent runs, or the acrobatic left-handed layup in traffic to ice the game with just 27 seconds remaining, Patterson had plenty of play-of-the-game worthy moments to choose from in the second-half.

Sac State will look to build off this win as the end of the regular season nears, with a two-game home stand, starting with Portland State on Saturday at 2 p.m. in The Nest.

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Andrew Edwards
Andrew Edwards, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Andrew Edwards is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State in his first semester at The State Hornet. He is a lifelong sports fanatic and has plans to pursue a career in sports journalism after graduating.
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