POCATELLO, Idaho -- Idaho State went to the free throw line 37 times, and outscored the Hornets, 48-31, in the second half on the way to an 80-67 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Saturday evening at Reed Gym.
The Hornets, who were playing their final regular season road game of the season, dropped to 13-14 overall and 9-9 in the Big Sky. Not only did the Hornets lose, but each of the other three Big Sky games this evening had outcomes that didn't help the Hornets in their quest to qualify for the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since 2006. Sacramento State will play its final two regular season games at home next week on Thursday against Montana and Saturday vs. Montana State. The Hornets will bring a seven-game home winning streak into Thursday's game.
In what has become a ridiculously wild season in the conference, Weber State is the only team that has clinched a spot in the Big Sky Tournament, and nine other squads have a legitimate chance to qualify for the postseason event. The top seven teams in the 11-member league will play in the Big Sky Tournament, and the second place and 10th place teams are separated by just three games. The Hornets are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place with Portland State and Eastern Washington, but sit just a half game back of sixth place, one game out of fourth place, and 1.5 games back of third place.
To view the jigsaw puzzle that is the Big Sky standings, click here. The Hornets will need to win at least one of their games next week to qualify, and very possibly, will have to win both games next week to reach the Big Sky Tournament.
Idaho State, which was playing for its postseason lives tonight, improved to 11-16 overall and 8-10 in the league. The Bengals hold down the 10th place position, and will have to play their final two games on the road.
In the Hornets' 84-78 home win against Idaho State earlier this season, the Bengals outscored the Hornets by 19 points in the second half to nearly come all the way back from a 27-point deficit. In tonight's game, the second half was nearly identical to the teams' earlier meeting as ISU outscored the Hornets by 17 points after halftime.
In fact, Sacramento State led by eight points with 2:33 left in the first half. That's when the Bengals ripped off a 22-8 run spanning over seven minutes of both the first and second halves to take a 46-40 lead with 15:08 to play. The Hornets chopped the lead to one point two and a half minutes later, but ISU never relinquished its lead. The Bengals led by at least four points the final 11:48 of the contest as the 13-point margin of victory was also their largest advantage of the evening.
Idaho State took advantage of what seemed like a sea of whistles as the Hornets were called for a robust 25 fouls. In fact, the Bengals were already in the bonus at the 8:47 mark of the first half, and the 10:29 mark of the second half. That included being in the double bonus with 6:34 to play. Idaho State went 29-of-37 (.784) from the free throw line compared to the Hornets shooting just 9-of-19 (.474). Usually a fairly sound free throw shooting squad, the .474 mark was the Hornets' worst percentage of the season from the charity stripe.
Idaho State shot .536 from the field in the second half, and .460 overall for the game. Over 35 percent of the Bengals' points came from the free throw line and ISU also held a commanding 42-31 advantage in the rebounding department. Sacramento State shot .407 from the field, and converted on one more field goal and five more 3-pointers than ISU, but the free throw disparity was too much to overcome.
The Hornets had a season-high 10 3-pointers, including a career-best eight from point guard Dylan Garrity. In fact, Garrity finished with a career-high 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field and 8-of-16 from distance. He played 38 minutes and accounted for nearly 40 percent of Sacramento State's points.
He was joined in double figures by Mikh McKinney (13 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Jordan Salley (11 points). Eric Stuteville chipped in nine points and eight rebounds, and Cody Demps had four points and eight rebounds. Tonight snapped a streak of 10 straight games in which McKinney had led the Hornets in scoring.
Idaho State had four players score in double figures, comprised of Chris Hansen (21 points, 10 free throws made), Tomas Sanchez (18 points), Jeffrey Solarin (14 points, 18 rebounds) and Andre Hatchett (11 points, five assists). All four of those players went to the free throw line at least five times, including 11 attempts for Hansen.