DAVIS, Calif. -- Despite posting season lows in points (61), field goal percentage (.377), 3-point field goal percentage (.280) and free throw percentage (.500), the Hornets had two chances to take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but fell at UC Davis, 66-61, in the second matchup of the season between the two rivals.
Sacramento State (5-2) and UC Davis (4-2) split the season series, with each team winning by five points at home. That included the Hornets beating the Aggies just eight days ago in Sacramento by an 84-79 score that had similar final-minute dramatics. The Hornets had an opportunity to start the season 6-1 for just the second time in school history (1948-pres.), but will have to settle for the loss and a 5-2 record.
The Hornets had chances to win despite an uncharacteristic poor shooting night and an abundance of whistles going against Sacramento State. In fact, the Hornets were whistled for a season-high 25 fouls, 10 more than the Aggies. Three Hornets fouled out of the game in Cody Demps, Justin Strings and Eric Stuteville while zero Aggies committed more than three fouls. That included a 16-7 foul disparity in the second half as UC Davis was in the double bonus with 10:48 to play. Demps, who entered the game as the team's leading scorer at 16.2 ppg, fouled out with 10:48 to play.
Still, the Hornets were able to claw their way back from a season-high 13-point deficit (46-33) with 11:59 to play. Sacramento State, which has erased three second-half deficits of eight points or more to win this year, went on a 28-15 run spanning nearly 11 minutes of game clock to tie the game at 61-61 with 1:12 remaining. Fueling the run were three underclassmen in sophomores Marcus Graves and Strings and true freshman Jeff Wu. Each player scored eight points during the run, and it was a long 3-pointer from Graves that capped the run and tied the score.
That set up an intense final minute where the game could have swayed either way. An offensive rebound from Neal Monson and subsequent free throw gave the Aggies a 62-61 lead with 49 seconds left. UC Davis grabbed another offensive board on Monson's miss of the second free throw and retook possession. However, a sprawling Wu came up with a steal and batted the ball to Graves who raced up the floor for what looked like a good opportunity for the Hornets to take the lead. Graves' contested layup missed, and Nick Hornsby's off-balance putback also missed as Monson grabbed the rebounds with 12 seconds to play and was immediately fouled.
Monson would bury both free throw attempts to put the Aggies on top, 64-61. The Hornets set up a play for guard Dreon Barlett, who had a nice look at a 3-pointer, but his shot bounced off the rim and out of bounds. UC Davis' Nolan Berry would eventually hit a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds to play to put the game away and give the Aggies the five-point win.
"Tonight was a very hard fought game and I thought UC Davis had a great game plan," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "They did a very good job defensively which resulted in season lows in a lot of offensive categories. The Aggies played better than we did tonight, and they deserved to win."
The Aggies held a 35-26 lead at halftime, and led for over 36 minutes of game clock. Sacramento State took early brief leads at 2-0, 4-3 and 6-5, but a Lawrence White layup with 14:46 to play in the first half gave UC Davis a 7-6 lead, and an advantage it would not relinquish until the Hornets tied with 1:12 remaining. The Hornets held a 15-7 edge in points off turnovers, and got 30 points from their bench, including a game-high 16 points from Strings. The Aggies were limited to just two second-chance points the entire game, one of which gave them the lead with 49 seconds left.
UC Davis shot .451 (23-51) from the field, .500 (6-12) from the 3-point line and .583 (14-24) from the free throw line. After being outscored in the first half by a 35-26 margin, Sacramento State held a 35-31 advantage in the second half.
Three Hornets finished in double figures, comprised of Strings (16 points, 3-of-4 from the 3-point line), Wu (all 12 of his points in the second half) and Hornsby (11 points, 12 rebounds). Horsnby had game highs in both rebounds and steals (3), and the 12 rebounds were a career high. The starting back court of Graves and Demps, who are the team's top two scorers, respectively, were limited to a combined 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field. All eight of Graves' points came during the final 11:06 of the game, as the true sophomore also finished with four rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes.
Demps finished with two points, six rebounds and four assists, Dreon Barlett had six points and a pair of 3-pointers, and Eric Stuteville added four points, a block and three rebounds. Strings fouled out with 1:26 remaining, and Stuteville drew his fifth and final foul with 12 seconds left.
For UC Davis, Brynton Lemar led the way with 12 points while Nolan Berry had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Josh Fox 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals. No Aggie player had more than six points in the second half. Both teams had 39 rebounds, and the Hornets had seven second-chance points.
Sacramento State, which was playing for the fourth time in eight days, returns to action on Monday to face Incarnate Word at 7:05 p.m. Incarnate Word is a Div. I institution from San Antonio, Texas, and plays in the Southland Conference. That game will mark the first of just two home games for the Hornets during the entire month of December.
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