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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Sac State earns a shot at redemption with Big Sky Tournament win

Free throw shooting and career-highs take the Hornets to the finish line
+Senior+forward+Akol+Mawein+after+hitting+one+of+his+two+first-half+threes+on+Saturday%2C+March+9%2C+2024.+Mawein+was+exceptional+in+the+Hornets%E2%80%99+first-round+win%2C+tallying+a+career-high+25+points.
Big Sky Conference
Senior forward Akol Mawein after hitting one of his two first-half threes on Saturday, March 9, 2024. Mawein was exceptional in the Hornets’ first-round win, tallying a career-high 25 points.

Sacramento State men’s basketball kept its season alive with a 72-64 win over the Idaho Vandals in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament.

In a do-or-die game, the Hornets led for 35 minutes and put the game away in the final stages with requisite free throw shooting.

Sac State shot 12-of-14 from the charity stripe in the last four minutes. As a team, the Hornets also shot 22-of-25 from the free throw line.

Senior forward Akol Mawein willed the Hornets to victory with a career-high 25 points and accounted for seven of the Hornets’ 12 free throws down the stretch.

Mawein ushered the Hornets’ offense all night. He started the game with 12 first-half points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, including two triples.

“My teammates just found me at the right times and without them I would’ve never gotten those looks,” Mawein said.

RELATED: Sac State women’s basketball dominates fourth quarter in Big Sky tournament win

The Hornets bench was indispensable in this victory, dominating the Vandals 25-5 in bench points.

Freshman guard Bailey Nunn scored 14 of the 25, tying his career-high and yet again providing an all-important jolt for the Hornets as a reserve.

Nunn and Mawein would end up accounting for nearly half of the Hornets 72 points, combining for 39 as a pair.

“These games are hard to win, but this group is so connected,” Nunn said.

Junior forward Jacob Holt added seven points and four rebounds off the bench while freshman guard Alex Kovatchev provided four points.
Aside from an early 3-0 Vandal lead, the Hornets led the entirety of the opening half and went into the locker room with a 32-29 lead.

Sac State’s defense was stout, forcing Idaho into nine first-half turnovers and holding the Vandals’ leading scorer, junior guard Quinn Denker, to two points and zero field goals.

Before Denker scored 10 inconsequential points in the final minute of the game, the Hornets had held the junior to six points on 1-of-11 shooting.

“In our huddles we let each other know that if we want this game in our hands we need to give it everything we got,” Mawein said. “Just knowing that it was a win-or-go-home game, I think that made us go the extra mile on defense.”



Idaho stayed within striking distance for much of the second half and took the lead back twice, but Sac State never wavered.

The Vandals were within four with six minutes to play and from that point Sac State would go on an 11-4 run to take its largest lead of the game at 65-54.

The Hornets made just one field goal in that stretch as the rest of their points came at the free throw line. This stretch was the defining moment for Sac State as Idaho would not threaten the Hornets again on their way to victory.

“Some teams go south and some teams go north this time of year,” Sac State head coach David Patrick said. “In terms of building our program the right way and with the right guys, this is a massive step moving forward for this group.”

Sac State will play the one seed Eastern Washington on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the semifinals on Tuesday.

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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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