FRANTIC COMEBACK FALLS SHORT IN MEN’S HOOPS’ 79-76 LOSS TO MONTANA STATE

FRANTIC COMEBACK FALLS SHORT IN MEN’S HOOPS’ 79-76 LOSS TO MONTANA STATE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Montana State freshman Tyler Hall scored a game-high 25 points, and the Bobcats led for over 39 minutes of game clock on the way to a 79-76 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday evening at the Nest.

The Hornets, who never led in the game, hit three 3-pointers in the final 17 seconds of the game to make things interesting, but a length of the court pass with 0.9 seconds remaining was batted away as time expired. Sacramento State trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, but made a second half charge that saw the team stay within five points or less of MSU's for a good chunk of the final 13 minutes of the contest.

Despite keeping things close late, Sacramento State had just one opportunity to take the lead, but Marcus Graves' 3-point attempt fell off the mark with the Hornets trailing, 56-55, and 7:48 remaining. The Bobcats immediately hit a 3-pointer on their next possession to keep things at a two-possession game.

Montana State eventually took what looked like a comfortable 74-67 lead with 32 seconds left, but Hornets got three 3-pointers from Jiday Ugbaja (0:17), Grant Dressler (0:08) and Jeff Wu (0:00.9) to make things interesting. Montana State was able to withstand the 3-ball flurry by converting on 5-of-6 free throws during the final 13 seconds. The two biggest free throws came from Danny Robison with six seconds remaining that put Montana State up, 77-73. One miss, and the Hornets would have had the opportunity to tie with a decent amount of time on the clock.

Amazingly, Sacramento State (10-11, 3-7) is now 0-8 when playing on Saturdays, and a combined 10-3 every other day of the week. Unfortunately for the Hornets, six of those Saturday losses have come to conference opposition.

In addition, the Hornets dropped to 7-4 at home, and 2-3 at home against Big Sky teams. Sacramento State is still 41-13 at the Nest dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, but four of those losses have come this season. The short-handed Hornets were playing their ninth consecutive game without the services of fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps due to injury.

Meanwhile, Montana State, which already has more conference wins that all of last season, improved to 10-13 overall and 5-6 in the conference. The Bobcats had dropped four straight to the Hornets inside the Nest prior to tonight. Montana State gains the season sweep of the Hornets, as the Bobcats won earlier this season in Bozeman by a 71-64 score.

Sacramento State was outrebounded, 47-39, and the Bobcats capitalized with 20 second-chance points. In fact, MSU had 19 offensive rebounds, including three in the final five minutes of the game. Montana State's Quinton Everett, who checks in at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. He entered the game averaging 4.3 boards per contest.

Both teams went 21-for-29 from the free throw line, and Montana State converted on one more field goal than the Hornets (a 3-pointer). Sacramento State shot .414 (24-of-58) from the field, including 7-for-23 from the 3-point line, and the Bobcats were .379 (25-for-66) from the field while connecting on 8-of-33 from long range. Sacramento State forced 13 MSU turnovers, and held a 15-9 edge in points off miscues.

After scoring just 15 points during the first 13 minutes and trailing, 30-15, with 6:43 left in the first half, the Hornets outscored Montana State, 61-49, over the final 26:22 of game clock.

For the Hornets, sophomore Justin Strings led the way with a career-high tying 23 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. He shot 8-of-10 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line while scoring in double figures for the 18th time this year. Senior guard Dreon Barlett finished two points off his career high with 16 points and seven rebounds. He buried a career-best five 3-pointers, and went 5-for-9 from distance.

Forward Nick Hornsby added seven points and six rebounds, Ugbaja had nine points, and guard Marcus Graves had six points and three assists. The six points for Graves was one shy of his season low for points as he entered the game with a team-leading average of 14.1 points per contest. Dressler, Wu and Eric Stuteville each had five points. Wu added four rebounds, three assists, two steals and zero turnovers in a career-high 30 minutes.

Hall was brilliant for Montana State, tallying 25 points, five rebounds and two blocks, shooting 5-for-10 from the 3-point line and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. He was joined in double figures by Marcus Colbert (16 points, 14 in the second half), Zach Green (14 points, five rebounds) and Everett (11 points, 15 rebounds).

Sacramento State, which has just eight games remaining in the regular season, will play a pair of road games next week at Weber State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday. Both games will tip at 6:05 p.m. PST.