MEN’S HOOPS’ LONG HOME WINNING STREAK COMES TO AN END VS. WEBER STATE

MEN’S HOOPS’ LONG HOME WINNING STREAK COMES TO AN END VS. WEBER STATE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Despite 23 points apiece from sophomores Justin Strings and Marcus Graves, the Hornets could not withstand a barrage of 3-pointers from Weber State in an 85-74 Wildcat victory over Sacramento State on Saturday evening at the Nest.

Weber State buried 11-of-22 (.500) attempts from the 3-point line while the Hornets went just 2-for-10 from distance. That proved to be the difference in the game as the Hornets converted one less field goal than the Wildcats while burying the same amount of free throws (18). Sacramento State was proficient from the field (.482), but Weber State knocked down 57 percent of its field goal opportunities (28-of-49), including the 11 triples.

The Wildcats, who jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the contest, led for 37:45 of game clock, and held at least a six-point advantage the entire second half. Sacramento State cut a 16-point deficit (71-55) with 6:36 left down to six points (76-70) on a Jeff Wu 3-pointer with 3:11 remaining, but the Wildcats went 7-for-9 from the free throw line over the final three minutes to put the game away.

In the process, Sacramento State's 11-game home winning streak in conference play was snapped. The winning streak had dated all the way back to March 8, 2014, and included the Hornets going 9-0 at home against Big Sky opposition during the regular season last year. The 11-game streak had been the longest active streak among any of the Big Sky's 12 teams.

The Hornets (8-8, 1-4) have played one of the toughest schedules in the Big Sky thus far with three road games and tonight's matchup with perennial power Weber State. Sacramento State, which has 13 games remaining on the conference schedule, does not play again until next Saturday at home vs. Portland State. The Hornets played their fourth straight game without team co-captain and fourth-year senior Cody Demps due to injury.

Meanwhile, Weber State continues to chug along, improving to 13-5 overall and 5-0 in the Big Sky. The Wildcats have won a conference-best eight straight games and remain one of just two Big Sky teams with undefeated league records (Montana is 6-0). Weber State also improved to 37-6 all-time against Sacramento State, although the Hornets had won two of the last three in the series heading into tonight's game.

A silver lining in the loss was the play of two Hornet sophomores against perhaps the Big Sky's best team. Strings had 23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 35 minutes while shooting 7-of-15 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. The 23 points tied his career high while the free throws made and attempted both set career bests. Strings has now scored in double figures in 10 straight games, and has three double-doubles over the last five games.

Graves posted his fourth game with at least 20 points this season, finishing with 23 points to go along with three assists and a steal in 35 minutes. The guard shot 9-of-14 from the field, 1-of-2 from distance and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. He scored 15 of the Hornets' 39 points in the second half.

Perimeter defense, however, was a problem for Sacramento State this evening as Weber State consistently got good looks at 3-point attempts, many of which fell late in the shot clock. Six different Wildcats hit at least one 3-pointer, and four different players buried at least two triples. Weber State also got significant production from its bench (34 points) compared to just 11 points from the Hornet bench. Both teams finished with nearly the same amount of rebounds (WSU 30, SAC 29), and the Wildcats outscored the Hornets in points off turnovers by a healthy margin (21-14).

With eight NBA scouts on hand to watch Weber State big man Joel Bolomboy, the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder did not disappoint, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The double-double was his nation-leading 17th this season. The 11 rebounds were nearly three boards below his season average (13.7 rpg).

Joining Strings and Graves in double figures for Sacramento State was forward Nick Hornsby, who had 10 points, four rebounds and four steals before fouling out with 4:20 remaining. The Hornets were whistled for 21 fouls, as guard Dreon Barlett also fouled out late in the contest. Amazingly, Sacramento State has seen a player foul out on 17 different occasions this year.

Wu had nine points off the bench for the Hornets on 4-of-6 shooting, and 1-of-2 from the 3-point line. No other Hornet finished with more than five points as the quartet of Strings, Graves, Hornsby and Wu (a true freshman) combined for all but nine of Sacramento State's points. Hornet center Eric Stuteville finished with just five points, his lowest point production in eight games.

Four Wildcats finished in double figures, comprised of Bolomboy, Jeremy Senglin (15 points, two 3-pointers), Cody John (11 points, two triples) and Dusty Baker (10 points). Ryan Richardson had nine points and shot 3-of-5 from distance and McKay Cannon had six points on 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.

Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 23, when the team wraps up its three-game homestand against Portland State at 7:05 p.m. The Vikings defeated the Hornets in Portland two weeks ago by a 76-68 score.