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MEN’S HOOPS WINS ON SENIOR NIGHT; GETS READY FOR BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

MEN’S HOOPS WINS ON SENIOR NIGHT; GETS READY FOR BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

Big Sky Tournament information

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State used a big second half, outscoring Northern Arizona, 39-22, on the way to a 64-51 victory over the Lumberjacks in the regular season finale for both teams.

On a night that saw fourth-year seniors Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett honored prior to the game, Sacramento State's second half numbers were impressive. After halftime, the Hornets shot .485 (16-33) from the field, outscored NAU in points off turnovers by a 10-2 margin, held a commanding 24-15 rebounding edge and limited NAU to just 7-of-27 shooting (.259). In fact, the Hornets used a 21-4 run during the first 9:27 of the second half to take a 46-33 lead with 10:33 to play.

The Lumberjacks eventually cut the deficit to six points with 9:00 remaining, but would get no closer as Sacramento State led by double figures the final 5:32 of the contest. The Hornets opened up a lead as large as 16 points late in the game before settling for the 13-point win.

With the victory, Sacramento State concluded the regular season with a 13-16 overall record and a 6-12 mark in the Big Sky Conference. More importantly, the Hornets will go into next week's Big Sky Tournament in Reno with a little momentum, having won both home games this week.

Sacramento State will play Montana State on Tuesday at 5:35 p.m. at the Reno Events Center during the single-elimination tournament that includes all 12 teams in the conference. The Hornets are the No. 10 seed while Montana State (14-16, 9-9) is the No. 7 seed. The Bobcats won both meetings this year against Sacramento State, but both games came down to the final minute and Demps missed each game with injury.

Should Sacramento State get past Montana State on Tuesday, the Hornets would play No. 2 seed Montana (19-10, 14-4) on Thursday at 5:35 p.m. The top four teams in the conference (Weber State, Montana, Idaho and Idaho State) receive a first round bye. For more information on the tournament, including schedule, tickets and much more, log on to RoadToReno.com.

The victory also assured the Hornets of winning at least 10 home games for the fourth consecutive season as Sacramento State completed the home portion of its schedule with a 10-5 mark at home, and 5-4 against league opposition. During Demps and Barlett's four seasons on the team, Sacramento State went 44-14 inside the Nest.

With the loss, Northern Arizona fell to 5-24 overall and 3-15 in the league, and will assume the No. 11 seed at the Big Sky Tournament. Tonight marked the first and only time this season that the Hornets and Lumberjacks have played one another. The Hornets have won four of the last six meetings between the two schools inside the Nest.

"In the second half, we shot it well, played defense, rebounded and turned the ball over just four times and that all contributed to a 39-point half," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "Obviously, heading into the Big Sky Tournament on a winning streak is a lot better than going into the tournament with a couple losses.

"We have Montana State on Tuesday, and we know them well (having played twice already) and they know us well. There certainly won't be any secrets and it will be a dog fight because they play very, very hard."

The Hornets finished the game shooting .464 (26-56) from the field, .333 (6-18) from the 3-point line and .600 (6-10) from the free throw line. The Hornets held a 39-35 advantage in the rebounding department, and improved to 8-1 when outrebounding an opponent this year. After turning the ball over eight times in a sloppy first half, the Hornets committed just four miscues in the second half.

Six different Sacramento State players had at least five rebounds, including sophomore Justin Strings who had a team-high 13 points to go along with five rebounds. Eric Stuteville had 11 points and six rebounds, Marcus Graves added 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals, and Barlett had nine points and seven rebounds. Demps, a team co-captain, finished with eight points, six rebounds and six assists, and fellow co-captain Nick Hornsby had eight points and six rebounds. Those six players accounted for 59 of the Hornets' 64 points, and 35 of the team's 39 rebounds.

For Northern Arizona, Torry Johnson had a team-high 13 points while Ako Kaluna chipped in nine points and nine rebounds, and Felix Rivera-Vega had nine points, 10 rebounds and two steals off the bench. Fresh off a 32-point effort on Thursday at Portland State, the Lumberjacks' leading scorer Kris Yanku was held to zero points on 0-of-4 shooting while committing five turnovers.

Sacramento State would need to win four games to secure the Big Sky Tournament championship. Should they get that far, the Hornets would have to win games on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to win the program's first-ever Big Sky Tournament title.