MASSIVE FREE THROW DISPARITY LEADS TO MONTANA STATE WIN OVER MEN’S BASKETBALL

MASSIVE FREE THROW DISPARITY LEADS TO MONTANA STATE WIN OVER MEN’S BASKETBALL

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Montana State shot a very impressive 29-for-31 from the free throw line, converting on 19 more freebies than Sacramento State on the way to a 92-76 victory over the Hornets on Thursday evening at Worthington Arena.

Sacramento State was whistled for 23 fouls while Montana State committed just 16 infractions. That led to MSU going 11-for-11 from the free throw line in the first half and 18-for-20 in the second half on the way to a very proficient 94% for the game. Meanwhile Sacramento State converted on just 10 of its 18 trips to the free throw line, good for a 56% clip. Both teams converted on 28 made field goals.

The Bobcats, who led for 37:10 of game clock, outscored the Hornets, 45-29, in the first half while both teams finished with 47 points in the second half. Sacramento State trimmed MSU's 16-point halftime lead all the way to four points (66-62) after Justin Strings buried a jumper with 9:25 remaining. However, the Bobcats immediately responded with a 12-0 run, and never looked back. The Hornets' last lead of the game came at 9-8 early in the first half.

With the victory, Montana State avenged a loss to the Hornets earlier this season in the Nest as the two teams split the season series. Both games between the teams were won handily as the Hornets defeated the Bobcats, 87-68, on Jan. 13. MSU improved to 13-12 overall, 6-6 in the Big Sky Conference and 8-3 at home.

Meanwhile, the Hornets dropped their third straight while falling to 6-18 overall and 3-8 in league. Only seven games are left in the regular season, and Sacramento State will continue its brief two-game road trip against conference unbeaten Montana (12-0) on Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. PST.

Montana State shot 51% (28-55) from the field, 39% (7-18) from the 3-point line and 94% (29-31) from the free throw line. The Bobcats also had a 38-31 edge in the rebounding department and a 36-22 advantage in points in the paint. Sacramento State shot 44% (28-64) from the field, 40% (10-25) from the 3-point line and 56% (10-18) from the free throw line. Despite making 28 field goals, the Hornets were somehow credited with just eight assists. Sacramento State continues to have problems at the free throw line where the team is shooting 66% this season, and has shot below 58% in three of the last four contests.

For Sacramento State, Strings led the way with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field to go along with two blocks. He has now scored in double figures in 44 straight games, the fifth longest active streak in the nation. In addition, the fourth-year senior has 1,420 career points and moved into sixth place in school history, surpassing Dylan Garrity's 1,406 points.

He was joined in double figures by true freshman Bryce Fowler who had a season-high 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. He also added a seven rebounds. Sophomore Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa posted 11 points (3-for-7 from distance) and five assists, and Kevin Hicks had nine points off the bench on 3-for-6 shooting from long range. Joshua Patton added six points and a blocked shot, Jordan Tolbert and Chibueze Jacobs both had five points, and Calvin Martin had six rebounds in 11 minutes.

Five Montana State players scored in double figures, led by Tyler Hall's game-high 28 points on 8-of-13 from the field, 4-for-8 from the 3-point line and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Zach Green added 16 points and six rebounds, and Devonte Klines had 12 points and four assists. The five MSU starters combined to go 26-for-28 from the free throw line.

Sacramento State will now play a Montana team that continues to dominate in league play as the Grizzlies have won all 12 league games, with 10 of those outcomes resulting in wins by at least nine points.