Jan 13, 2018
SACRAMENTO — Sacramento State got a huge night from Justin Strings (31 points) while shooting 59 percent from the field (36-61), owning the glass (35-25) and scoring 50 points in the paint on the way to an 87-68 victory over Montana State on Saturday evening at the Nest.
In the Hornets’ most complete effort of the season, Sacramento State did nearly everything well, scoring more than 40 points in both halves while posting season highs in field goals made (36) and assists (23). The Hornets had just 10 turnovers while recording seven blocked shots and eight steals. Sacramento State also had sizeable advantages in points in the paint (50-34), points off turnovers (15-8), second chance points (19-7) and fast break points (6-0).
After Montana State began the game on a 9-2 run, the Hornets outscored the Bobcats by an 85-59 margin over the final 37:13 of game clock. The Hornets led by just one point at the break (41-40), but opened the second half on a 17-9 run and never looked back. The Hornets held a lead the final 21:27 of the game, and had a double-figure point advantage the final 9:15. In fact, Sacramento State led by as many as 23 points before setting for the 19-point win.
The Hornets broke things open late in the second half, using a 19-4 run spanning eight minutes that stretched an eight-point lead all the way to 85-62 with 1:40 to play. Five different Hornets scored during the run, and an Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa 3-ball capped the spurt and drew a standing ovation from the fans in attendance.
With the win, Sacramento State snapped a three-game losing streak while improving to 5-13 overall and 2-3 in the Big Sky Conference. All five Hornet wins this season have come at home and the team is now 5-2 inside the Nest, and 57-20 at home dating back to the 2012-13 season.
Montana State, which is currently in second place in the league standings, dropped to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky. The Hornets are now 13-11 all-time when playing Montana State at home.
The Hornets’ schedule thus far in Big Sky play has not been easy. As of right now, Sacramento State has played the first place team in the conference (Montana), the second place team (Montana State), two teams tied for third (Eastern Washington and Idaho), and a Portland State team that was coming off a 25-point road win at Cal.
Strings’ 31 points fell just three points of his career high, set two weeks ago in the win over Portland State. The senior forward scored in double figures for the 38th consecutive time while shooting 14-of-24 from the field and adding three rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 40 minutes. He is now averaging 23.2 points in conference play, the third best mark in the league. In addition, Strings moved past former Hornet John Dickson for seventh in program history in scoring with 1,328 career points. That figure is also the fourth best mark in the program’s Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Strings wasn’t the only Hornet with a monster game as sophomore forward Joshua Patton matched his career high with 18 points while setting a career best with five blocked shots. The Big Sky’s leader in blocks in now averaging 2.1 stuffs per game. Sophomore guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa posted his first career double-double with 14 points, 10 assists, two steals and just one turnover in a career-high tying 38 minutes.
Junior forward Calvin Martin, a transfer from Citrus College, played 15 active minutes, posting season bests in points (13) and rebounds (7). Four of those rebounds came on the offensive glass, and he had a major hand in the Hornets scoring a season-best 19 second chance points. Even Hornets that didn’t have big scoring nights contributed significantly, including freshman Bryce Fowler who had eight rebounds and a season-best six assists, junior Jeff Wu had five assists, two steals and played solid defense, and James Herrick posted season highs in points (4) and rebounds (3) in seven minutes.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting 59% (36-51) from the field, 39% (5-13) from the 3-point line and 77% (10-13) from the free throw line. Montana State converted on 12 fewer buckets than the Hornets, finishing 44% (24-55) from the field, 27% (4-15) from the 3-point line and 84% (16-19) from the free throw line. The Bobcats are also one of the Big Sky’s best rebounding teams until being punished on the glass this evening. In fact, MSU had just 10 rebounds during the entire second half.
The Bobcats were led by Tyler Hall’s 20 points while Harald Frey had 10 points and Benson Osayande also added 10 points.
Sacramento State will now play its next three games on the road, its longest Big Sky road trip of the season. The trip begins next week with games at Weber State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday. The Hornets conclude the trip at Portland State on Saturday, Jan. 27. Sacramento State does not play at home again during the month of January.
NOTES — Tonight was Kids Day inside the Nest, and kids 12-under were admitted free, and Hornet players signed autographs after the game…senior guard Jiday Ugbaja missed his second straight game with injury, and has now missed 12 games this season because of injury…Sacramento State has now used the same starting lineup in 13 straight games…five Hornet men’s basketball Hall of Famers (DaShawn Freeman, Loren Leath, Jameel Pugh, Greg Reed and Mitch Third) were in attendance, and honored during a game break.