SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento State senior Justin Strings was unconscious tonight, scoring 44 points on 19-of-23 shooting as the fourth-year senior led the Hornets to a 94-75 home exhibition win over UC Santa Cruz on Friday evening at the Nest. Tonight marked the first and only exhibition game for Sacramento State as the team opens the regular season next Friday at Colorado State.
Strings had 23 points in the first half, and 21 more in the second half as the forward made an array of shots, including dunks, layups, runners, fadeaways, 3-pointers and free throws. He shot a ridiculous 19-of-23 from the field, 3-for-5 from the 3-point line and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. He also had eight rebounds, two steals, four assists and zero turnovers in a game-high 38 minutes. Had tonight's game been played during the regular seaosn, the 44 points would have been the top single-game scoring mark in Sacramento State's Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Strings wasn't the only Hornet to have a proficient shooting night as Sacramento State shot a robust 69 percent (38-of-55) from the field and 47 percent (9-of-19) from the 3-point line. The team held a 48-37 advantage in the first half and 46-38 in the second half against a well-coached UC Santa Cruz team.
The Hornets used all 11 healthy bodies on the roster in tonight's game, including five newcomers.
Joining Strings in double figures were junior guard Kevin Hicks (16 points, three assists, 4-of-9 from 3-point land), sophomore big Joshua Patton (14 points, five rebounds) and junior guard Jeff Wu (12 points, seven assists, two steals). The four Hornets in double figures combined for 86 points while shooting 73 percent (35-for-48) from the floor. Of Sacramento State's nine 3-pointers, four came from Hicks, three from Strings and two from Wu.
The Hornets' largest deficit of the evening was two points (19-17) midway through the first half. Sacramento State used a 20-9 run during the final six minutes of the first half to lead, 48-37, at the break. The Hornets would eventually push that lead to 26 points in the second half and the team led by double figures the final 13:21 of the contest.
UC Santa Cruz shot 49 percent (28-57) from the field, 39 percent (7-18) from the 3-point line and 75 percent (12-16) from the free throw line. Both teams finished with 28 rebounds. Sacramento State finished with 21 assists on 38 made buckets with just nine turnovers and eight steals. The Hornets held a 22-15 advantage in points off miscues.
"We certainly didn't have a great start to tonight's game, and we weren't very good defensively," Sacramento State 10th-year head coach Brian Katz said. "But the upside - we finally started getting stops on the defensive end, made a few adjustments, and got it going in the second half. We played a good offensive game but not a very good defensive game. I want to be clear about something - they are a well coached team and run a very good system. I'd like to think we could have guarded a little better, but they run an offensive system that's hard to guard and puts you in bad spots.
"What I liked a lot about the game was our 21 assists and nine turnovers. I'll take that every night. Obviously, Justin was special this evening, hopefully he saves that kind of game for the regular season as well."
Junior guard Jordan Tolbert, who along with Hicks transferred from Western Texas JC, finished with six points, five assists and three steals. Tolbert started with Hicks and Wu at the guard spots, Strings at forward and Patton in the post.
The Hornets got just two points off their bench, including one point and four rebounds from Citrus JC transfer Calvin Martin and a point and three rebounds from sophomore guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa. Senior James Herrick, junior Cristian Perez, sophomore Chibueze Jacobs and freshman Jamion Wright also appeared in tonight's game.
UC Santa Cruz, which is a Div. III program, was led by Sam Gabbard's 17 points and eight rebounds. Tre Weston added 12 points and Ben Dorfman had 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from distance.
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