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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 is morphing into a team to be reckoned with

The Hornets are starting to piece it together at the right time
Malachi Parker
Junior guard Austin Patterson attempts to go up for a lay up over an Eagle defender Monday, March 4, 2024. Patterson ended the game with a game-high four threes.

Sacramento State men’s basketball played its final two conference matches of the year in The Nest. The Hornets split the pair, but are finally clicking as an uninitiated team.

Saturday: Sacramento State 73, Portland State 61

Sac State was too much to handle for Portland State on Saturday, beating the Vikings 73-61 in part of an exceptional all-around performance.

The Hornets have allowed their defense to take charge in these back-to-back wins and it’s been the recipe for success.

Sac State held the Vikings to just five points in the first nine minutes of gameplay and didn’t allow a single field goal in the last nearly seven minutes of the opening frame.

Frequent traps, active hands and suffocating on-ball pressure were on display resulting in the Hornets picking the Vikings’ pocket seven times, and forcing 11 first-half turnovers.

The Vikings finished the half with only 20 total points and were held to 22% from the field by the Hornets. Portland State was able to make due in the first half with 16 free throw attempts, though they only made half.

“From the jump, we came out with an intensity that I don’t think they were expecting and we played some of our best defense all year,” junior forward Jacob Holt said.

Holt’s size and physicality in the painted area were visibly overwhelming for the Vikings all game. The junior not only anchored the defense with four blocks but added 15 points and eight rebounds on an efficient 5-of-6 from both the field and free throw line.

Sac State closed the final eight minutes of the opening set on a 24-10 run, fueled by freshman guard Bailey Nunn.

Nunn had The Nest buzzing when he put his defender on skates and followed it up by drilling a three to give the Hornets an 11-point lead with four minutes to spare in the first half.

“My team needs me and wants me to shoot it when I’m open,” Nunn said. “I feel like I just got to try and bring energy off the bench and give us some life.”

Freshman guard Bailey Nunn drives past a Portland State defender on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Nunn had his best game of the year, finishing with 14 points and eight assists. (Malachi Parker)

Nunn put together an array of highlights over the course of the game both passing and scoring, notching 14 points, three triples and eight assists.

Sac State grasped a 34-20 lead at the half and allowed their momentum to carry over into the second period.

The Hornets’ biggest lead of the game grew to 22 and although Portland State cut it down to 13 at one point, the game was never in jeopardy.

In addition to Holt and Nunn, junior forward Zee Hamoda and junior guard Austin Patterson eclipsed double-digit scoring.

The Hornets’ upperclassmen have provided consistent play during this two-game win streak, which is something Sac State head coach David Patrick has said the team needs.

Patterson had a relatively quiet 15 points, which is a testament to the type of performances we’ve been spoiled with from him as of late. The junior has scored in double-digits each of the last four games, including two 20-point outings.

Hamoda seems to have found his groove again. The junior has racked up 15 points in each of the last two wins, after averaging just over five points in the five prior outings.

“I like the direction of this team and I like their spirit,” Patrick said. “I’ve been around a lot of teams this time of year that are ready to pack it in, but this group is not like that in any sense.”

RELATED: Sac State softball captain adds her name to the record book again

Monday: Sac State 88, Eastern Washington 91

Sac State went shot for shot with the regular season Big Sky champions Eastern Washington, in its regular season finale but fell short losing 91-88.

The Hornets set a program record making 18 threes. Every player in the Sac State rotation made at least one triple.

Sac State truly lived and died by the three ball. The Hornets shot 58% from deep but missed a three-point heave at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

Junior guard Austin Patterson attempting a contested layup over an Eagle defender Monday, March 4, 2024. Patterson ended the game with 14 points. (Malachi Parker)

Eastern Washington is one of the best teams in the entire country at putting the ball in the basket. The Eagles are number four in the nation with a field goal percentage of 50.9%, and number 34 in points per game at 80.9.

The Hornets knew their offense would have to be on point for this game to be competitive and it was.

“Our offense was choppy early in the season, but now we’re playing as a unit,” freshman center Bowyn Beatty said. “This was just an all-out offensive brawl.”

Sac State sprung open a 25-16 lead in the first ten minutes of action and forced seven Eastern Washington turnovers.

The Eagles came screeching back with a rapid 18-7 run to capture a 34-32 lead. The score would seesaw all game, changing on nine different occasions.

Patterson caught fire late in the half, hitting three of his game-high four triples in the final stretch before intermission. The junior continued his recent hot streak, ending with 14 points.

Freshman guard Alex Kovatchev capped off a highly-entertaining opening frame, with a buzzer-beater three to knot the scoring up at 48. Kovatchev was one of five Hornets to end the game in double-figure scoring.

Both teams were scorching in the first half, each shooting above 60% from the field.

“We know we can score the ball, we’ve had that for the second or third game in a row,” Patterson said. “I just feel like we have to guard better.”

The Eagles came soaring out of the locker room and rattled off a 13-4 run in less than four minutes to take an early 61-52 lead in the second half.

Sac State didn’t flinch. The Hornets regained a 67-65 lead after a 15-4 spurt, powered by contributions from numerous Hornets.

The two teams went back and forth until crunch time, when freshman guard Emil Skytta hit the record-tying 18th three to put the Hornets in front 88-84 with just over two minutes remaining. Skytta tied Patterson with a game-high four triples on that shot and had a career-high of 15 points.

Sac State then went cold at the worst time, as the Hornets would not score for the rest of the contest and allowed the Eagles to close the game on a 7-0 run, giving them a 91-88 win.

“It comes down to rebounding, taking care of the basketball and defending,” Patrick said. “You’re not going to make 18 threes every night, but if we buy into those three things we can play with anybody in our league.”

Regardless of the outcome in this game, Sac State is playing its best basketball of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time than March.

This year was bound to be a process given how inexperienced the Hornets are, but they’re moving along quickly as they gain more experience.

Sac State, the #10 seed, will play Idaho, the #9 seed, in Boise, Idaho in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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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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