MEN’S BASKETBALL NEARLY BEATS CONFERENCE UNBEATEN MONTANA, BUT FALLS, 71-60, IN OVERTIME

Athletics News

MISSOULA, Mont. — Sacramento State gave conference unbeaten Montana a major scare on the road before eventually falling, 71-69, in overtime on Saturday evening at Dalhberg Arena.

The Hornets were playing a Montana squad that entered the game 12-0 in league, 10-0 at home, and was beating Big Sky Conference opponents by an average of 16.0 points per game. In fact, the Hornets probably should have won the game, but had a tough time converting down the stretch.

A 3-pointer from Sacramento State’s Bryce Fowler gave the Hornets a 61-56 lead with 2:55 left, but the Hornets would not score again in regulation. During that stretch, the Hornets were 0-for-2 from the field and 0-for-3 from the free throw line with a turnover. Meanwhile, Montana would close the final 2:21 on a 5-0 run to force overtime. Sacramento State’s Justin Strings missed two free throws with 2:03 remaining, and James Herrick missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 11 seconds left and the game tied at 61-61. The Grizzlies had a chance to win but Michael Oguine missed a contested shot as time expired.

That set up the first overtime of the season for Sacramento State, and the Grizzlies were able to win the extra session by a 10-8 margin. No team led by more than four points in an extra session where both teams did not shoot particularly well. The Hornets were 2-for-8 from the field while Montana was 2-for-9. The biggest difference was the free throw line where Montana was 6-for-8 while the Hornets were 3-for-4.

Chibueze Jacobs gave the Hornets their only lead of overtime (62-61) at the 3:09 mark after he split a pair of free throws. Both teams went back and forth until Montana would eventually take a 69-66 lead at the 1:09 mark. The Hornets had two possessions to cut into the deficit or tie, but could not convert either time. That included an inbounds pass with seven seconds left that was stolen by Ahmaad Rorie. Oguine would then make a free throw to give the Grizzlies a two-possession lead (70-66) with just under seven seconds remaining. Fowler hit another 3-ball at the two second mark, and Oguine split two free throws after quickly being fouled. Herrick grabbed a rebound off the Oguine free throw miss, and his full-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark as time expired.

The Hornets were playing without three rotation guys during the final 11 minutes of game clock. Calvin Martin, who started his first game of the season tonight, fouled out with 6:39 remaining in regulation. At that same time, guard Jeff Wu was injured and did not return. Then, to make matters even tougher, starting forward Joshua Patton, who had 14 points and eight rebounds, fouled out with 5:59 left. After Patton fouled out, Montana outscored the Hornets, 19-13, the rest of the way.

With the win, Montana improved to 20-5 overall, 13-0 in the Big Sky, and 11-0 at home. The Grizzlies are attempting to become the first Big Sky team to finish a conference season undefeated since Weber State accomplished the feat in 2002-03. The win also allowed Montana to sweep the season series against Sacramento State, which included a 78-66 win at the Nest on Jan. 11. Montana has now won 13 straight games, and has not lost since a 66-63 defeat on the road at Washington on Dec. 22.

Sacramento State, which led by as many as nine points midway through the second half, lost its fourth straight while dropping to 6-19 overall and 3-9 in the Big Sky. The Hornets are now 1-11 on the road this season, and 1-6 against conference opposition. The Hornets were attempting to win in Missoula for the second straight season.

Both teams combined to commit just 20 turnovers (SAC 11, UM 9), but Montana owned a big advantage in points off miscues (14-5). The Hornets shot 43% (25-58) from the field, 62% (8-13) from the 3-point line and 69% (11-16) from the free throw line. The Grizzlies shot 38% (24-63) from the field, 32% (7-22) from long range and 76% (16-21) from the free throw line. Both teams finished with 14 assists, and Montana held a 41-37 advantage on the glass.

For Sacramento State, Strings led the way with 21 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-high 44 minutes. In the process, he extended his streak of scoring in double figures to 45 straight games, the fifth longest active streak in the nation. He also has 1,441 career points, six shy of fifth all-time in Sacramento State history behind Hornet Hall of Famer Lynn Livie (1,447).

Patton’s 14 points and eight rebounds came in just 27 minutes on 4-for-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in a career-high 42 minutes, and Fowler had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers in a season-best 42 minutes. Martin had two points, five rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes as he made his first start in a Hornet uniform.

Sacramento State had used the same starting lineup in 19 straight games until the Hornets opted to go bigger tonight, starting Martin in place of Wu. Strings, Patton, Fowler and Mauriohooho-Le’afa are the other starters. Jordan Tolbert added seven points and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench.

Montana was led by Oguine’s 25 points and seven rebounds in 44 minutes while Jamar Akoh had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Rorie scored 10 points, but had a brutal shooting night, going 4-for-17 from the field and 0-of-6 from the 3-point line.

With just six games left on the regular season schedule, four of those games for the Hornets will come at home. That stretch begins next week inside the Nest for games on Thursday vs. Idaho State and Saturday vs. Weber State. Both games will tip at 7:05 p.m.

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