SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State limited Southern Utah to .385 shooting (25-of-65) for the game and held an 8-2 advantage in overtime on the way to a 69-63 victory over the Thunderbirds on Thursday evening at the Nest.
During the extra session, Southern Utah shot just 1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-4 from the 3-point line and did not attempt a free throw. The Thunderbirds' lone bucket tied the score at 63-63 with 2:35 left, but SUU went 0-for-3 from the field while committing two turnovers during the final two minutes.
Meanwhile, Sacramento State never trailed in overtime, getting buckets from Marcus Graves (3:50) and Nick Hornsby (1:02). The Hornets iced the game by going 4-for-4 from the free throw line during the final 30 seconds. Both Cody Demps and Graves knocked down both their freebies.
Demps was huge for Sacramento State at the end of regulation, scoring each of the Hornets' final six points spanning the final 2:58 of the second half. That included a 12-foot elbow jumper at the 1:14 mark to give the Hornets a 59-57 lead, and he later added a runner in the lane for a 61-59 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Southern Utah would tie the score at 61-61 with a pair of free throws at the 23-second mark and that's how the game would go into overtime. Demps missed a 3-point look at the end of regulation that would have given the Hornets the win.
With the victory, Sacramento State (12-16, 5-12) clinched the No. 10 seed in next week's Big Sky Tournament in Reno. The Hornets will play on Tuesday, March 8, at 5:35 p.m. against either Montana State or Portland State. Should Montana State win on Saturday night, the Hornets will play the Bobcats. If Portland State wins on Saturday and Montana State loses, the Hornets will play the Vikings.
The Hornets improved to 12-16 overall and 5-12 in the Big Sky, and have just one game left on the regular season schedule. That will come on Saturday when Sacramento State hosts Northern Arizona at 7:05 p.m.
Southern Utah dropped to 5-22 overall and 3-14 in the Big Sky. Tonight marked the first and only time the Hornets and Thunderbirds have faced each other this season. The Hornets have won five of the last seven meetings in the all-time series with Southern Utah, and have a 9-4 record when the two teams play in Sacramento.
The Hornets held a 21-8 lead at the 7:48 mark of the first half, but Southern Utah closed the final 6:53 on a 14-4 run to trail, 25-22, at halftime. The Thunderbirds would eventually take a seven-point lead (36-29) with 15:32 remaining, but Sacramento State responded with a 20-6 run to take a 49-42 lead with 9:22 left. No team led by more than seven points the rest of the way.
In a game that saw Sacramento State miss 14 layup opportunities, the Hornets used their defense to get the upper hand. They limited Southern Utah to .385 (25-65) shooting from the field and .238 (5-21) from the 3-point line. Sacramento State also outrebounded Southern Utah, 41-33, and held a 13-9 advantage in second chance points.
The Hornets shot .448 (26-58) from the field, .357 (5-14) from the 3-point line and .857 (12-14) from the free throw line. Sacramento State was also able to overcome a season-worst 20 turnovers and Southern Utah scored 18 points off those miscues.
The Hornets did have nine blocks (second largest output of the year), including a school-record seven from the Big Sky's leading shot blocker Eric Stuteville. The seven blocks are the largest single-game mark in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.). Stuteville finished with a well balanced line of seven points, nine rebounds, seven blocks and 25 minutes played.
Four Hornets scored in double figures, comprised of Hornsby (16 points, four rebounds, three steals in 37 minutes), Justin Strings (14 points, nine rebounds, two blocks), Graves (12 points, four assists and career-high eight rebounds) and Demps (13 points). Dreon Barlett chipped in seven points, all coming in the second half.
Southern Utah, which outscored the Hornets, 36-7, in points off the bench, had two reserves score in double figures. That included Trey Kennedy who had 15 points, but was 0-of-7 from the 3-point line. Travon Langston added 11 points and three steals, and Casey Oliverson finished with seven points, six rebounds and two steals. No Southern Utah starter finished with more than seven points.
Prior to Saturday night's home game vs. Northern Arizona, Hornet fourth-year seniors Demps and Barlett will be honored for their contributions to the program.
NOTES -- Tonight's win was the Hornets' first overtime game since the Dylan Garrity buried a 75-foot shot at the overtime buzzer to beat Weber State at home, 78-75, on Feb. 1, 2014…Hornsby's 16 points were a season high…the Hornets are now 7-1 when outrebounding their opponent.
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