SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State scored 47 second-half points, and fourth-year senior Cody Demps scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as the Hornets defeated Pacific, 79-71, on Sunday evening at the Nest.
In a series that dates back to 1948, the Hornets and Tigers were playing each other for the first time since 2009, and Sacramento State was able to improve to 8-31 all-time against Pacific. Prior to tonight, the Hornets had lost 14 of the last 15 games in the series, and had just three wins over the Tigers since 1954. That changed tonight as Sacramento State improved to 5-1 this season by outscoring the Tigers, 47-39, in the second half on the way to an eight-point win.
The Hornets were playing for the second time in as many days as tonight's game concluded the two-day, four-team Sacramento State Invitational. South Dakota, which beat Eastern Washington earlier today, 77-71, was the lone team to finish the tournament with a 2-0 record as Sacramento State and Eastern Washington both went 1-1, and Pacific finished 0-2. The two-day event began yesterday with South Dakota beating Sacramento State (96-90) and Eastern Washington knocking off Pacific (70-63).
The Hornets' 5-1 record is tied for the best mark in school history (1948-pres.), as only six previous Sacramento State teams have accomplished the feat. Only the 1985-86 team began the year with a 6-1 record. In addition, the Hornets continued their dominance at home as the team has now won 24 of its last 28 home games inside the friendly confines of the Nest.
With the scored tied, 38-38, early in the second half, it was Demps that sparked a 12-4 run spanning nearly four minutes of game clock that gave the Hornets a 50-42 lead with 13:15 remaining. The fourth-year senior scored seven points during the run, including a 3-pointer and a jumper during a 13-second span that started the spurt. After the Hornets took the 50-42 lead, Sacramento State led by at least five points the rest of the way.
Pacific cut the Hornet advantage to 74-69 with 41 seconds left, but junior Nick Hornsby knocked down a pair of free throws and it stayed a three-possession game the rest of the way. During the first 23 minutes of game clock, the game featured eight ties and four lead changes, including a 32-32 deadlock at halftime. However, Sacramento State led the final 16:22, opening up a lead as large as 13 points on two different occasions in the second half.
After shooting poorly in the first half (.391) while committing eight turnovers, it was a different story in the second half. After halftime, Sacramento State shot .576 (19-33) from the field, .400 (4-10) from the 3-point line and committed just four turnovers while forcing Pacific into 11 miscues. In fact, the Hornets held a 21-8 advantage in points off Pacific turnovers in the second half. Overall, Sacramento State shot .500 (28-56) from the field, .421 (8-19) from the 3-point line and .652 (15-23) from the free throw line. The Hornets finished the game with 26 points off Pacific miscues.
Pacific's 21 turnovers were the team's most since committing the same amount on Feb. 18, 2012, against Idaho State. The Hornets finished the game with a season-high 12 steals, eight of which came from sophomore Marcus Graves. Many of those turnovers came against a Hornet defense that used a number of double teams and pressing tactics to frustrate Pacific's offensive flow. The eight steals for Graves tied for the second best single-game mark in school history. Graves had a monster game, finishing with a game-high tying 19 points to go along with six assists, two rebounds and eight steals in 39 minutes.
"I didn't like our defense at all last night against South Dakota, so I was happy the way we battled and shored that up tonight," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "I think the real difference in the game was our press. Pacific had a large advantage in the rebounding department (40-27), so if we hadn't forced all those turnovers, I'm not sure we win this game.
"Tonight was probably the best we have executed all year offensively in the second half. We don't feel like we've executed on offense as well as we should this year, so tonight was definitely an improvement in that area."
Pacific shot .455 (25-55) from the field, but converted on just 6-of-24 (.250) attempts from the 3-point line, and five of those makes came from T.J. Wallace. The Tigers, who dropped to 1-5 with the loss, also shot well in the second half (.538, 14-for-26), but could not overcome the turnovers.
Not only did Demps have 17 points, but he also contributed seven assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. In the second half alone, he had 14 points, five assists and three rebounds. Joining Graves and Demps in double figures for the Hornets was Hornsby who had a stat-stuffing sheet line of 13 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals in 33 minutes. It was Hornsby that drew a charge on Pacific's Maleke Haynes with 35 seconds left to help seal the victory.
Center Eric Stuteville added nine points, including 5-of-6 from the free throw line, Dreon Barlett had six points on a pair of 3-pointers, and Justin Strings had eight points and four rebounds. Barlett is now shooting .450 (54-for-120) for his career from the 3-point line, the second best mark in school history. Mason Stuteville added six points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in eight minutes off the bench.
For Pacific, Wallace (19 points, 5-of-11 from distance), Jacob Lampkin (12 points, nine rebounds), D.J. Ursery (13 points, four rebounds) and Tonko Vuko (10 points, four rebounds, three steals) each scored in double figures.
Sacramento State looks to become just the second team in program history to begin a season 6-1 when the Hornets travel to UC Davis on Wednesday for a 7:05 p.m. game. The Hornets defeated the Aggies earlier this season in Sacramento by an 84-79 score.
NOTES -- The Hornets have scored at least 79 points in four straight games, and over that span, the team is averaging 87.2 points on .514 shooting from the field, .432 from the 3-point line and .727 from the free throw line. That includes 82 assists on 125 made buckets.
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