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MEN’S BASKETBALL OPENS BIG SKY PLAY WITH 76-68 LOSS AT PORTLAND STATE

MEN’S BASKETBALL OPENS BIG SKY PLAY WITH 76-68 LOSS AT PORTLAND STATE

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite double-doubles from both Justin Strings (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Eric Stuteville (17 points, 12 rebounds), Sacramento State dropped its Big Sky Conference opener at Portland State, 76-68, on Saturday evening at the Stott Center.

The Hornets played nearly the entire game without team co-captains Nick Hornsby and Cody Demps because of injury. Hornsby missed the entire game with injury, and Demps played just eight minutes while exiting for good at the 10:09 mark of the first half. Hornby, who is a third-year junior, had never missed a game to injury in his career prior to tonight.

In a game that Sacramento State never led, the Hornets eventually tied the score three different times during the later stages, the last of which came at 51-51 with 6:21 remaining on a Trevis Jackson runner. However, Portland State (5-7, 1-0) closed the final 5:18 on a 25-17 run, which included the Vikings burying their final seven free throw attempts spanning the last 33 seconds of the game.

The Hornets (7-5, 0-1) have never won a Big Sky opener on the road as the Hornets dropped to 0-9 when playing the first league game away from home since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97. In addition, Sacramento State had its four-game winning streak against Portland State snapped. The Hornets defeated the Vikings three times last year, including the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals, and that winning streak had been the longest against any Big Sky squad.

Sacramento State was playing on the road for the fourth time in six games, and the Hornets will play twice more away from home next week against Montana State on Thursday and Montana on Saturday. After winning their first two road games of the season, the Hornets have dropped four straight away from home.

The Hornets got off to a sluggish start, missing 12 of their first 15 shots while committing six turnovers during the first 10 minutes of the contest. Portland State took advantage, jumping out to a game-high 13-point lead (20-7) with 10:06 remaining. Sacramento State was forced to play catchup the rest of the way as the Hornets shot just .321 (9-28) while committing eight turnovers during the first half. Still, Sacramento State stayed within striking distance, trailing just 33-25 at the break.

The Hornets shot better in the second half (.469, 15-32) while scoring 12 second chance points, but could not stop Portland State late in the contest. Both teams scored 43 points in the second stanza. Sacramento State tied the score three different times during the final 8:02, but Portland State answered immediately with buckets on two of those occasions, including a banked 3-pointer from Isaiah Pineior with 6:55 to play.

After Jackson's runner tied the score at 51-51 with 6:21 remaining, Portland State proceeded to shoot 7-of-11 from the field and 10-for-11 from the free throw line while forcing two steals during the last 5:18 to put the game away. The contest was at least a two-possession game the final 4:25.

Both teams didn't shoot particularly well from the field (SAC .400; PSU .391), but the Vikings forced 16 Hornet turnovers and outscored Sacramento State, 21-13, in points off miscues. Portland State also held an 8-2 advantage in fast break points and 18-7 in points off the bench.

Strings, who started in place of Hornsby, finished with his first career double-double as the sophomore forward had 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting and a career-high 13 rebounds. The 13 boards were the most by a Hornet all season, and six of those rebounds came on the offensive glass.

Stuteville continued his torrid stretch with his second straight double-double, as the junior center finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting. The local product from Orangevale has now scored in double figures a career-best four straight games, and over that stretch, is averaging 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds on .605 shooting from the floor.

Joining Stuteville and Strings in double figures for Sacramento State were Dreon Barlett (13 points, two 3-pointers) and Marcus Graves (12 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals). Those four players combined for 61 of the Hornets' 68 points, and Strings and Stuteville combined for 25 points in the second half. The Hornets committed 23 fouls, and Stuteville, Graves and Jiday Ugbaja each played with four fouls.

Four Portland State players scored in double figures, comprised of Bryce White (19 points, five rebonds), Calaen Robinson (17 points, three steals), Cameron Forte (14 points, nine rebounds) and Pineiro (11 points, eight rebounds). White scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, including eight of those points during the final 1:13 of the contest.

Both games next week at Montana State on Thursday and Montana on Saturday will begin at 6:05 p.m. PST.