RED-HOT PORTLAND STATE RACES PAST MEN’S BASKETBALL

RED-HOT PORTLAND STATE RACES PAST MEN’S BASKETBALL

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Portland State shot a blistering .642 (34-of-53) from the field, and never trailed on the way to an 81-63 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday evening at the Nest.

The Vikings, who led by as many as 21 points, jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first 4:20 of the game, and never looked back. In fact, the Vikings led by at least eight points the final 25:21 of the contest. Portland State was proficient from the inside (48 points in the paint) and outside (.500, 6-of-12 from the 3-point line) in a rare blowout of Sacramento State at home.

In fact, tonight marked the Hornets' worst loss to a conference foe at home since falling to Northern Arizona nearly five years ago, 63-42, on Feb. 24, 2011. It was the worst loss at home to a conference or non-conference team since a 79-53 defeat to UC Irvine on Nov. 30, 2013. After winning 11 straight regular season games at home against a Big Sky opponent, the Hornets have dropped two straight, including an 85-74 loss to Weber State last Saturday.

The Hornets (8-9, 1-5) dropped to 0-6 when playing on Saturday, and the team is 8-3 on every other day of the week. Sacramento State was also playing its fifth straight game without team leader and fourth-year senior Cody Demps. Including his eight-minute game at Portland State when he re-aggravated his lower body injury and played just eight minutes, the Hornets are now 1-5 without his services.

A convincing loss is rare inside the Nest for Sacramento State as the team had won 27 of its last 32 games inside the friendly confines prior to tonight. The Hornets dropped to 6-3 at home this year, and 40-12 at the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season.

For Portland State (7-10, 3-3), it was an impressive win as the Vikings sweep the season series, including a 76-68 win in Portland earlier in early January. Sacramento State had won four straight against Portland State entering the season.

After falling behind early, 19-6, the Hornets were able to claw back and get within, 19-14, on a layup from Nick Hornsby with 9:16 left in the first half. Sacramento State kept it close until a stretch that saw Portland State convert on 11 of its final 12 field goal attempts of the first half to go into halftime with a convincing 44-27 lead.

Sacramento State would cut the deficit to eight points (58-50) with 8:03 remaining in the second half, but Portland State immediately answered with a 3-pointer from Calaen Robinson. Sacramento State again got the deficit to single digits (61-52) on a layup from Dreon Barlett with 6:48 left, but PSU got two free throws on its next possession and led by double figures the final 6:27 of the contest.

Portland State shot at least 58 percent from the field in both halves, including a robust 69 percent (20-of-29) from the floor in the first half. The Vikings held large advantages in points in the paint (48-28), points off turnovers (21-13) and bench points (39-19). A big indicator of how well Portland State moved the ball was the Vikings' 26 assists on 34 made buckets while committing just 11 turnovers.

Sacramento State shot a very proficient 49 percent (25-of-51) from the field, including .556 (15-of-27) in the second half, marks that will usually get the Hornets a win at home. However, that proficient shooting was no match for Portland State, which seemingly scored on nearly every possession.

The Hornets, who converted on 7-of-23 shots (.304) from the 3-point line, converted on just 6-of-15 (.400) attempts from the free throw stripe.

Four Portland State players scored in double figures, led by Cameron Forte who came off the bench to tally 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes. He was joined in double digits by Robinson (13 points, three steals), Zach Gengler (13 points, eight assists, zero turnovers) and Isaiah Pineiro (10 points in 19 minutes).

For Sacramento State, it was sophomore Justin Strings leading the way with a team-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from distance. Strings has now scored in double figures in 11 straight games, and has a team-high 15 double-figure efforts this season. Fellow sophomore Marcus Graves pumped in 12 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 36 minutes.

Forward Nick Hornsby had nine points and nine rebounds, and sophomore Jiday Ugbaja played 22 spirited minutes, finishing with career highs in points (7) and minutes (22) while also recording three assists. True freshmen Grant Dressler and Jeff Wu both had six points and Barlett finished with five points, three rebounds and three assists.

The Hornets hit the road next week for games at Idaho on Thursday, and Eastern Washington on Saturday. Thursday's game is a 7:05 p.m. tip while Saturday's contest at Eastern Washington begins at 12:05 p.m.

NOTES -- Tonight's attendance was 1,058, the Hornets' second sellout of the season…Sacramento State's win over UC Davis on Nov. 24 drew 1,472 spectators…capacity at the Nest is 1,012.