SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State junior forward
On a night when the Hornets played their final home game of the season and seniors , , and were honored prior to the game, it was Salley coming through with his biggest performance of the season. Salley couldn't be stopped, especially in the second half when he collected 10 points and nine rebounds, including two thunderous dunks that got the Nest crowd on their feet. He finished the game 8-of-11 from the field and five of his 10 rebounds came on the offensive glass. In fact, the La Verne, Calif., native finished the game with a team-high +15 in plus/minus ratio, a stat used to determine how much a team outscores the opponent with a particular player on the floor.
Perhaps the craziest part about Salley's performance was he entered the game with 18 points and 17 rebounds for the entire season, and averages of 0.8 points, 0.7 rebounds and 5.7 minutes per contest. Those numbers took a spike tonight as the athletic Salley seemed to fly around the key all night with reckless abandon. Salley scored the Hornets' final four points of the game, both on dunks, including a one-handed rip with an Idaho State defender in his face.
Still, the Hornets, as they have done in many games this season, made things interesting towards the end. A Salley dunk gave Sacramento State its largest lead of the night at 53-46 with 2:40 to play. That proved to be the Hornets' final points of the game as the team missed the front end of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities on two occasions during the final 22 seconds.
After the Salley dunk, Idaho State put together three free throws and a three-pointer from Tomas Sanchez to get within, 53-52, with 1:10 remaining. Those were the game's final points as the Hornets committed a turnover and missed front ends of two 1-and-1 free throw situations in the final minute while the Bengals missed jumpers on three straight possessions. After the Hornets' missed his free throw with 22 seconds left, Idaho State's Melvin Morgan missed a 17-footer towards the top of the key and pulled down the rebound with 1.1 seconds remaining. Quigley then missed his free throw and Idaho State quickly threw the ball down the floor to Morgan who missed a desperation three-pointer from half court as time expired.
The win was easily the biggest of the year for Sacramento State (14-13, 8-10) as it keeps the team in the thick of Big Sky Tournament contention with just two games left in the regular season. The Hornets, who will travel to Montana and Montana State next week to conclude the regular season, are attempting to qualify for the league's postseason event for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Montana (16-1), Weber State (16-2) and North Dakota (11-8) have all clinched spots in the Big Sky Tournament while the final four spots are up for grabs between Northern Colorado (9-10), Southern Utah (8-9), Montana State (8-10), Northern Arizona (8-10) and Sacramento State (8-10). One of those five teams will not make the tournament, and the Hornets will likely need to win at least one game next week to have an opportunity to qualify.
The Hornets avoided falling below the .500 mark for the first time all season, the team's 14 wins are the second highest total in the program's Div. I history (1991-pres.), the eight conference wins matches the most by the team since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, and Sacramento State finishes the year with a 10-4 home record, matching the best mark in the Div. I era.
The win also avenged a loss earlier this season to Idaho State (5-23, 4-14) where the Bengals won, 60-59, in Pocatello.
It was the tale of two halves as Idaho State was the much better team in the first half, limiting Sacramento State to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and forcing eight turnovers on the way to a 34-24 halftime lead. The Bengals led by as many as 13 points late in the first half, and shot 56.0 percent (14-25) from the field while outrebounding the Hornets by a 20-11 margin.
However, it was all Hornets in the second half as Idaho State made just four field goals in 21 attempts (.190), and was outscored in points in the paint (14-4), points off turnovers (9-0) and second-chance points (10-3). The Hornets committed just two turnovers in the second frame, and outscored the Bengals, 29-12 during the first 17:20 of the second half.
Both teams finished the game below 40 percent from the field as the Hornets converted on just 36.2 percent (21-58) of their field goals, 21.7 percent (5-23) of their three-point attempts and 50.0 percent (6-12) of their free throws. Sacramento State did commit just 10 turnovers and finished the game with a 19-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
Joining Salley in double figures for the Hornets was point guard who finished with 13 points, four rebounds and five assists in a game-high 39 minutes. Eleven of those points came in the second half. Eberhard, Dickson and Veteto all had six points while finished with four points, three rebounds and a game-high six assists.
Idaho State was led by Sanchez's 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. Andre Hatchett added 10 points and nine rebounds. Morgan (1-for-9) and Chris Hansen (0-for-9) were a combined 1-for-18 from the field.
Sacramento State concludes the regular season with games at Montana on Thursday and Montana State on Saturday. The game at Montana will tip at 6:05 p.m. PST, and the Montana State game will be a 1:35 tip. tallied team highs in points (16) and rebounds (10), and helped the Hornets outscore Idaho State, 29-18, in the second half on the way to a 53-52 victory over the Bengals Saturday evening at the Nest.