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MEN’S BASKETBALL SEASON COMES TO AN END WITH LOSS TO MONTANA

MEN’S BASKETBALL SEASON COMES TO AN END WITH LOSS TO MONTANA

RENO, Nev. -- Montana forward Martin Breunig had game highs in points (24) and rebounds (16) to lead the Grizzlies to a 70-53 victory over Sacramento State in the Big Sky Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night at the Reno Events Center.

With the loss, Sacramento State's season comes to an end with a 14-17 record while Montana (20-10) moves onto the semifinal round where it will take on Idaho tomorrow evening. The Hornets, who were the No. 10 seed, had advanced to the quarterfinals after winning their first round game against Montana State on Tuesday night. Montana, the No. 2 seed, received a first round bye after finishing among the top four teams in the conference.

Sacramento State was making its seventh Big Sky Tournament appearance (prior to this year, only the top six or seven teams qualified), and now hold a 4-7 all-time record at the postseason event. The Hornets were able to win Big Sky Tournament games in back-to-back years for the first time since joining the league in 1996. Sacramento State defeated Portland State in last year's quarterfinal round.

Tonight, it was the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Breunig who had his way, scoring 24 of Montana's 70 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. Four of his 16 rebounds came on the offensive glass, helping the Grizzlies to 11 second-chance points. Of his 10 made field goals, seven came on layups and two came via dunks.

Breunig's effort along with the Hornets' field goal percentage of .358 (19-53) and 3-point percentage of .214 (6-28) all contributed greatly to the loss. Sacramento State's point total (53), field goals made (19), field goal percentage and assists (7) were all the second lowest totals of the season. The Hornets also posted their lowest rebounding total of the year (26) while being outrebounded, 40-26. Sacramento State had three scoring droughts of longer than four minutes during the game, including a pair in the first half and one in the second half.

Sacramento State jumped out to a 5-1 lead during the first 2:28 of the game, but Montana immediately responded with a 10-2 run to take an 11-7 lead. The Grizzlies, who held a lead the final 33:54 of the game, would eventually push that lead to double digits at 25-15 on a Breunig dunk with 4:00 left in the first half. That was part of a spurt that saw Breunig score 10 straight points for Montana.

The Grizzlies finished the game shooting .471 (24-of-51) from the field while knocking down six 3-pointers and converting on 16-of-20 (.800) from the free throw line. The two teams combined for just 15 turnovers (UM 8, SAC 7), but Montana held a 9-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

Breunig would strike again with a layup with four seconds remaining to give Montana a 36-21 halftime lead. Sacramento State would get no closer than 10 points of the Grizzlies' lead the remainder of the evening. The Hornets closed the gap to 11 points (62-51) with 3:36 to play on a Justin Strings putback, but Montana scored eight of the game's final 10 points to provide the final 70-53 margin.

"Montana is a very good team, and whenever you have a player (Breunig) that commands a double team and is that effective, its a problem," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "It frees up the rest of his teammates, and you saw what happened tonight. They moved the ball around well, did a nice job in every area, and particularly Breunig who was the difference tonight."

For Sacramento State, Strings led the way with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-for-8 from the 3-point line. Eleven of those 14 points came in the second half while he also contributed four rebounds and two steals. He was joined in double figures by true freshman Jeff Wu who had 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Nick Hornsby had six points, six rebounds and a steal, Marcus Graves had six points and two assists, Cody Demps added four points, five rebounds and three assists, and Dreon Barlett had five points. Eric Stuteville chipped in four points and three rebounds.

Tonight marked the final games in the careers of fourth-year seniors Demps and Barlett, who have both had big impacts on the program during their tenure. In fact, Demps ranks among the program's 20 players in 10 different career categories, including fourth in total minutes (3,055) and starts (86), and fifth in games played (114). Barlett ranks sixth in program history in career 3-point percentage (.405) and 12th in both games played (106) and free throw percentage (.823).

Sacramento State won at least 14 games all four years of their careers after the program reached that mark just once in the first 21 years at the Div. I level (1991-pres.).

"I loved every second of being with this team throughout the season, and I look up to Cody (Demps) and Dreon (Barlett) as big brothers," Strings said. "We played this year for the seniors because of the amount of respect we have for them. Everyone on this team played tonight like it was their last game out of respect for what the seniors have meant to this program."

Sacramento State had six players average at least 7.5 points per game this season, comprised of Strings (15.5), Graves (12.2), Demps (12.0), Stuteville (8.0), Hornsby (7.8) and Barlett (7.5).