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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Eight different South Dakota players connected on at least one 3-pointer, and the Coyotes knocked down 12-of-19 attempts (.632) from distance on the way to a 96-90 victory over the Hornets in the first round of the Sacramento State Basketball Invitational Saturday afternoon at the Nest.
The loss was the first of the season for Sacramento State (4-1) as the team missed an opportunity to begin the season 5-0 for the first time in school history (1948-pres.). In addition, the Hornets had won 23 of their previous 26 home games dating back to the 2013-14 season.
Sacramento State, which had been one of two teams in school history to start 4-0 (the 1999-00 squad also accomplished the feat), had won each of its first two home games of the year prior to the loss. The Hornets will return to action tomorrow when they host Pacific at 5:35 p.m. in the second round of the tournament.
The two-day, four-team tournament, also features Pacific taking on Eastern Washington later this evening, and South Dakota and Eastern Washington playing tomorrow at 2:35 p.m. The tournament marks the first that Sacramento State has hosted in 20 years.
In today's game, South Dakota was on fire from the field all afternoon, as the Coyotes, a member of the Summit League, shot .538 (35-65) from the field, .632 (12-19) from the 3-point line and .636 (14-22) from the free throw line. The Coyotes buried 7-of-11 opportunities from distance in the first half, and 5-for-8 from the stripe in the second half.
In a game that featured seven ties and 13 lead changes, neither team led by more than eight points the entire way. Sacramento State took its last lead of the day at 81-80 with 4:39 remaining, but South Dakota responded by scoring on its next three possessions. That amounted to an 8-0 run, which included a 3-pointer and a conventional 3-point play to give the Coyotes their largest lead of the evening (88-81) with 3:06 left. One of the 3-pointers came from Dan Jech, who scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, including 4-for-4 from distance.
Sacramento State cut the South Dakota lead to two points on two occasions (1:08, 0:40), but the Coyotes responded with buckets each time to keep the contest a two-possession game. Trailing by four points with 33 seconds left, the Hornets had three looks at a 3-pointer on one possession, but missed each time.
The Hornets shot well from the field (.529, 36-for-68) and scored at least 84 points for the third time this season, but had trouble with their perimeter defense, usually a strength. In fact, Sacramento State entered the game ranked fourth in the nation, allowing the opposition to shoot just 21-of-95 (.221) from the 3-point line.
The Hornets outscored South Dakota, 49-48, in the first half, but the Coyotes held a 48-41 advantage after halftime.
South Dakota owned a relatively small advantage in the rebounding department (36-33), but secured 15 offensive boards that resulted in a 22-13 advantage in second-chance points. Thirteen of those second-chance points came in the second half, including six in the final 4:09 after the Hornets had just taken the one-point lead.
For Sacramento State, five players scored in double figures, comprised of Cody Demps (19 points, 11 assists, two steals), Justin Strings (17 points, four rebounds, two blocks), Dreon Barlett (14 points, 4-of-5 from distance), Nick Hornsby (12 points, seven rebounds) and Eric Stuteville (12 points, six rebounds). After scoring 11 points in the first half, Barlett was limited to just one field goal attempt in the second half before fouling out with eight seconds to play.
The 11 assists for Demps were a career high, and the fourth-year senior has now scored at least 15 points in all but one game. He leads the team with an average of 16.0 points per contest. Sophomore Marcus Graves, who entered the game averaging a team-best 17.8 points, was limited to just five points on 1-of-8 shooting, though he did have seven assists and five rebounds.
For South Dakota, 39 of the team's points came from its reserves, including Jech who finished 9-of-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from distance for his 22 points while playing just 24 minutes. Joining Jech in double figures for the Coyotes were starters Tre Burnette (16 points, 13 rebounds), Shy McClelland (15 points, six assists, three steals) and Casey Kasperbauer (13 points, four assists). Ten of McClelland's points came in the second half. South Dakota's five starters combined to commit just two turnovers all afternoon.
After Sacramento State's game tomorrow against Pacific, the Hornets will play just twice at home during the entire month of December.
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