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BIG FIRST HALF PROPELS EASTERN WASHINGTON TO 93-88 WIN OVER MEN’S HOOPS

BIG FIRST HALF PROPELS EASTERN WASHINGTON TO 93-88 WIN OVER MEN’S HOOPS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Eastern Washington connected on 14 of its first 18 field goal attempts and raced to a 58-40 halftime lead before holding on late in a 93-88 victory over Sacramento State on Thursday evening at the Nest.

The Eagles converted on each of their first eight field goal attempts of the game and finished the first half shooting a blazing .647 (22-of-34) from the field and .533 (8-of-15) from the 3-point line to give the Hornets' their largest halftime deficit of the season. Sacramento State shot well in the first half (.500), but could not overcome the torrid start by the Eagles.

The Hornets outscored Eastern Washington in the second half by a 48-35 margin and made a late push, but never could trim the deficit to a one-possession game. In fact, the Hornets closed the final 1:51 on a 12-3 run to make things interesting.

A three-point play by Nick Hornsby with 37 seconds left trimmed EWU's lead to single digits (91-83) for the first time in over 24 minutes of game clock. A layup from Jiday Ugbaja (0:26) off a Grant Dressler steal, and a 3-pointer from Jeff Wu (0:17) got the Hornets within four points (92-88), but Sacramento State would get no closer.

Both teams shot well from the field (EWU .534, 31-of-58; SAC .500, 34-of-68), but the Eagles converted on six more 3-pointers and finished the game shooting .423 (11-of-26) from distance. Sacramento State had its third highest scoring output of the season, scored 23 fast break points, and had 21 assists compared to a season-low six turnovers. In fact, the Hornets had 12 assists and zero turnovers in the second half.

Sacramento State had big advantages in points in the paint (50-36), points off turnovers (23-9) and fast break points (23-6), but the Hornets' defense in the first half put the team in too big of a hole. Sacramento State also forced 14 EWU turnovers while finishing with six blocks and 11 steals (second largest output of the year).

The Hornets (10-14, 3-10) dropped their fourth straight game, the team's longest losing streak in four years. Sacramento State also had won each of the last three meetings at home against Eastern Washington prior to tonight's loss. With just five games remaining in the regular season, the Hornets sit in 10th place in the 12-team Big Sky standings. All 12 teams qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament, which will take place in Reno on March 8-12. For tickets and hotel info, visit RoadToReno.com.

Meanwhile, Eastern Washington won its conference-high seventh straight game, and pulled off a season sweep of Sacramento State. During the Eagles' seven-game winning streak, five of those outcomes have come by 10 points or more. Both wins over the Hornets during the winning streak came by seven points or less, including a 74-67 victory in Cheney on Jan. 30.

The Hornets had four players finish with 14 points or better, including the sophomore combination of Justin Strings and Marcus Graves both dropping in 20 points. Strings posted his fifth double-double during conference play, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and three steals. Graves played a team-high 38 minutes, posting 20 points, six assists and a steal. The two sophomores combined to finish with just two turnovers in 73 minutes of play.

Center Eric Stuteville had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and guard Cody Demps had 14 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes. Demps was playing his third straight game after missing nine straight with injury, and his 32 minutes were the most since his return. Nick Hornsby added eight points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and Wu finished with eight points, two assists and two steals. Hornsby, Wu and Ugbaja (4) combined to score 20 points off the bench for Sacramento State.

Eastern Washington had six players finish in double figures, comprised of the conference's leading scorer Austin McBroom (22 points, seven assists, eight turnovers), Venky Jois (18 points, 13 rebounds), Bogdan Bliznyuk (10 points, 12 rebounds), Felix Von Hofe (17 points, 4-of-7 from the 3-point line), Sir Washington (15 points before fouling out) and Julian Harrell (11). Those six players combined for all of the Eagles' 93 points as no other EWU player on the roster cracked the scoring column.

Eastern Washington, which leads the NCAA in offensive efficiency, ranks sixth in the nation in both field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage.

The Hornets return to action in two days when they host Idaho at 7:05 p.m. inside the Nest.