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MEN’S BASKETBALL GETS BIG ROAD WIN AT IDAHO, 65-63

MEN’S BASKETBALL GETS BIG ROAD WIN AT IDAHO, 65-63

MOSCOW, Idaho — Sophomore Marcus Graves had a team-high 18 points, including 11 points in the final 8:07 of the contest, and Sacramento State held on for dear life in a 65-63 win at Idaho on Thursday evening at Cowan Spectrum.

The Hornets, who led by as many as 21 points in the first half, saw that lead whittled down to a single point with 1:10 remaining in the contest. It was a tense final minute as the Hornets nearly blew what looked like an insurmountable lead of four points (65-61) with nine seconds to play. After Graves had just buried two free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining, Idaho's Pat Ingram drove the length of the floor in just five seconds and hit a layup to cut the deficit to 65-63.

Sacramento State then inbounded the ball to center Eric Stuteville, who was fouled and missed both free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining. Idaho secured the rebound and raced the length of the floor before a blocking foul was called on the Hornets' Nick Hornsby with 0.9 seconds remaining. That put Ingram on the free throw line with a chance to tie the game and force overtime. However, Ingram missed the first free throw, and tried to miss the second on purpose to give the Vandals a chance at the rebound, but his wild attempt did not draw iron. That gave Sacramento State the ball, and the Hornets were able to inbounds as the horn mercifully sounded on a hard-fought Hornet victory.

Sacramento State held a 37-21 halftime lead, its largest advantage at the break against a Div. I opponent this season. However, Idaho outscored the Hornets in the second half by a 42-28 margin. Still, the Hornets never trailed the entire way, leading the final 39:40 of the contest. Of Graves' 11 points in the final eight minutes, he hit a big 3-pointer at the 5:18 mark after Idaho had cut the lead to three points, and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line during the final 18 seconds.

He was joined in double figures by fellow sophomore Justin Strings (17 points, five rebounds) and senior Dreon Barlett (10 points, two 3-pointers). Graves (11) and Strings (9) scored 20 of the Hornets' 28 second-half points as the sophomore duo both made huge buckets late. That included a pair of free throws from Strings at the 2:14 mark that gave the Hornets a nine-point lead. Graves shot 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-6 from the 3-point line and 5-for-6 from the free throw line while adding a career-high nine assists to go along with two steals in 37 minutes.

It was a much-needed win for the Hornets (9-9, 2-5), who snapped a six-game losing streak on the road. Playing without team co-captain and fourth-year senior point guard Cody Demps for the sixth straight game, Sacramento State was able to secure its second conference win after dropping its last two games (both at home) by double figures.

In addition, the Hornets were able to pick up a win in a series dominated by Idaho as the Vandals entered the game with a 15-2 all-time record against Sacramento State. In fact, tonight's win snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Vandals in Idaho, and marked the Hornets' first road win at Idaho since a 77-65 victory on Dec. 8, 1972.

Idaho dropped to 12-9 overall and 4-4 in conference with the loss, and each of the Vandals' last four games have been decided by five points or less. Just last week, the Vandals beat Montana in Missoula by a 63-58 score.

Sacramento State finished the game shooting .415 (22-of-53) from the field, and was able to survive despite shooting just .333 (8-of-24) in the second half. The Hornets connected on 10 3-pointers (one shy of a season high) as Sacramento State buried 10-of-26 (.385) from long range, and five different players hit from deep. Despite being outrebounded, 34-27 (and 20-9 in the second half), the Hornets committed just eight turnovers and had 12 points off Idaho miscues.

The Hornets used a small lineup a good portion of the game, electing to give 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja his first career collegiate start in place of 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville. The Hornets started three guards and two forwards, and none of those players stands taller than 6-foot-7. The plan worked beautifully as Sacramento State raced to a 26-8 lead in the game's first 11 minutes, and a Jeff Wu 3-pointer eventually pushed the lead to a game-high 21 points (33-12) with 7:06 left before halftime.

Sacramento State led by double figures for a good portion of a combined 26 minutes of game clock between the first and second halves before an 11-1 Idaho run late in the second half cut the Hornet lead to 53-50 with 5:18 to play. However, the Hornets were able to get 3-pointers from Graves (5:18) and Barlett (3:01) as well as six combined free throws from Graves and Strings to help secure the win.

Idaho shot .463 (25-of-54) from the field, including .567 (17-of-30) in the second half. The Vandals converted on three more field goals than the Hornets (25-22), but hit four less 3-pointers and went just 7-of-14 (.500) from the free throw line. That included the huge missed first free throw with 0.9 seconds to go. Idaho held sizable advantages over the Hornets in points in the paint (32-16) and points off the bench (22-9).

Graves, Strings and Barlett combined for 45 of the Hornets' 65 points as Hornsby added six points and eight rebounds, Ugbaja had five points, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes, and Stuteville had four points and five rebounds in 13 minutes. Stuteville had started 48 of the last 50 games until coming off the bench tonight.

Idaho was led by Chad Sherwood's game-high 22 points, as he converted on 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and accounted for all six of Idaho's 3-pointers. Nineteen of his points came in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers at the 1:32 and 1:10 marks of the second half to help the Vandals draw close. Ty Egbert added 11 points and nine rebounds, and Ingram had nine points.

Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday for a 12:05 p.m. matinee at Eastern Washington.