BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montana State used a 22-6 run over the final six and a half minutes to eventually defeat Sacramento State, 71-55, in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Saturday afternoon at Worthington Arena.
After the Hornets' converted a lay-up to tie the score at 49-49 with 9:10 remaining, the Hornets finished the game shooting 1-for-10 from the field with two turnovers. In fact, Sacramento State scored just six points during the final nine minutes of the contest, and the Bobcats went on a 13-1 run over the final three minutes to turn a close game into an easy victory.
Today marked the end of the season for Sacramento State, which dipped below the .500 mark for the first time all season while falling to 14-15 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky. The loss also put an end to the team's Big Sky Tournament aspirations as the top seven teams in the 11-member league qualify for the postseason event. The Hornets finished in a three-way tie for sixth place with Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, but lost out on the tiebreaker. Montana beat Northern Arizona tonight in Missoula, officially eliminating the Hornets. Had NAU won, the Hornets would have clinched the No. 7 seed for the tournament.
Montana will be the tournament host and No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 Weber State, No. 3 North Dakota, No. 4 Montana State, No. 5 Northern Colorado, No. 6 Southern Utah and No. 7 Northern Arizona.
With the victory, Montana State, which lost to the Hornets earlier this year in Sacramento, improved to 13-16 overall and 10-10 in the conference.
The Hornets dropped five of their last six games against Big Sky opposition, including seven consecutive road losses against a Big Sky foe.
In today's game, no team led by more than five points during the first 18 minutes of the first half before Montana State closed on a 10-0 run to head into halftime with a 39-28 lead. The Hornets, however, opened the second half on a 15-3 run, and a dunk gave the team its only lead of the second half at 43-42 with 15:03 remaining. Both teams exchanged buckets the next six minutes of game clock before Montana State went on its game-clinching 22-6 run.
Sacramento State shot just 34.9 percent (15-43) from the field, 36.8 percent (7-19) from the three-point line and 81.8 percent (18-22) from the free throw line. The Hornets were credited with a season-low five assists on their 15 made buckets, and had 14 turnovers which were their most in 13 games. In fact, Montana State outscored the Hornets in points off miscues by an 18-8 margin.
The Bobcats, conversely, shot the ball well in both the first and second halves, finishing the game at 48.9 percent (23-47) from the field, 42.9 percent (9-21) from the three-point line and 88.9 percent (16-18) from the charity stripe. Four of the Bobcats' starters finished in double figures, including Christian Moon who had a game-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Sacramento State did outscore the Bobcats in second chance points, 14-7, but MSU converted on eight more field goals. The 16-point margin of victory for Montana State was also the team's largest lead of the game.
Sacramento State had three players finish with 13 points, comprised of Dickson (13 points, seven rebounds, two steals), (13 points, four rebounds in a game-high 36 minutes) and (13 points, five rebounds). , who got the start at center in place of , finished with six points and four rebounds in 27 minutes. added six points and five rebounds. The Hornets received just four points from their bench.
For Montana State, joining Moon in double figures were Flavien Davis (14 points, four rebounds and four assists), Antonio Biglow (13 points) and Paul Egwuonwu (11 points and a game-high nine rebounds).
A big reason for the Hornets' late-season slide was the team's lack of offensive production. The Hornets failed to score better than 55 points in five straight, and six of the last seven games. During that seven-game stretch, the team averaged 54.0 points while shooting just .371 from the field and .254 from the three-point line.
Sacramento State's 14 wins were the second most in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the team's eight conference wins tied for the most since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97.