BOZEMAN, Mont. — Montana State used a 15-3 run over the final four minutes, and took advantage of a massive foul disparity while attempting 42 free throws on the way to an 84-70 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon at Worthington Arena.
A bright spot for the Hornets was fifth-year senior guard Marcus Graves recording his 1,000th career point. Graves became just the 16th player in program history (1948-pres.) to reach the milestone, and he accomplished feat on a seven-foot fadeaway that resulted in a three-point play with 1:25 left in the contest. He is just the 10th player to score 1,000 during the team's Div. I era (1991-pres.)
However, what seemed impossible became reality this afternoon - the Hornets were whistled for 32 fouls and Montana State shot 42 free throws….in a 40-minute regulation game. Making matters worse is the Bobcats were called for just 16 fouls and Sacramento State went to the line 11 times. Three Hornets fouled out and two additional Sacramento State players had four fouls. Conversely, MSU had one player commit more than three fouls.
Sacramento State, which led at halftime, 39-35, was whistled for 20 fouls in the second half as Montana State found themselves in the double bonus with 9:17 left in the game. Center Joshua Patton, the Hornets' second leading scorer and leading rebounder, fouled out with 8:35 to play. Forward Calvin Martin (9:54) and swingman Bryce Fowler (1:51) also fouled out. Fowler fouled out for just the second time in 44 career games while Martin fouled out for just the third time in 37 career games.
The free throw parade was in full effect in the second half as MSU players enjoyed a 20-for-27 effort from the line while the Hornets went the the charity stripe just six times.
Despite the foul and free throw disparity, Sacramento State led for a good portion of the second half. But the Hornets went cold late as Montana State unleashed a 15-3 run over the final 3:57. Prior to the run, Sacramento State trailed just, 69-67, at the 4:18 mark. However, the Hornets missed six of their final seven field goal attempts and turned the ball over twice during the last four minutes of the contest.
Sacramento State converted on three more field goals and five more 3-pointers than Montana State. The Hornets shot 43% (26-61) from the field, 32% (10-31) from the 3-point line and 73% (8-11) from the free throw line. The 10 3-pointers were one shy of a season high, and the top mark against a Div. I opponent. The Bobcats, who converted on just nine field goals in the first half, finished at 48% (23-48) from the field, 36% (5-14) from the 3-point line and 79% (33-42) from the free throw line.
The loss was the fourth straight for Sacramento State, which dropped to 6-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets were playing their second game in the Treasure State over a three-day stretch, as the team fell at Montana on Thursday night. The Hornets had been 6-2 prior to the losing streak, which matched the program's best eight-game start during the Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Meanwhile, Montana State (6-8, 3-1) remains one of the hotter teams in the Big Sky, having won six of its last eight games. In fact, the Bobcats had started the season by losing six of their first seven games prior to their current run. MSU improved to 4-1 at home, including a 98-88 victory against Portland State on Thursday night.
The Hornets have dropped seven straight in Bozeman, and are now 5-22 all-time when playing Montana State on its home floor.
After outscoring Montana State in the first half, 39-35, Sacramento State was outscored in the second half by a 49-31 margin. MSU had sizable advantages in the rebounding department (37-27) and points off turnovers (17-9). After shooting 47% from the field in the first half, Sacramento State shot 38% in the second half.
Graves led the Hornets with 18 points as he buried three 3-pointers while also tallying five assists in 35 minutes. Fellow guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa had a season-best 16 points (including four 3-pointers). He scored 12 of those points in the second half, including all four of his 3-point makes.
Patton had nine points and four rebounds in 22 minutes, true freshman James Bridges had a season-high eight points (2-for-3 from distance) and Fowler had seven points, seven rebounds and four assists. Martin had six points and two steals, and has now drawn at least one charge in all nine games he's played. Ethan Esposito had four points and four rebounds, and Chibueze Jacobs added five rebounds.
Four Montana State players scored in double figures, comprised of Harald Frey (21 points, 7-for-7 from the free throw line), Lassi Nikkarinen (14 points, 10-for-12 from the line), Devin Kirby (14 points, 6-for-9 from the line) and Keljin Blevins (10 points, 4-for-8 from the line). Those four players combined to shoot 36 free throws.
Sacramento State was playing the second leg of a stretch that will see the team play four of five games on the road. The one home game during that stretch will come on Saturday, Jan. 12, when the Hornets host Idaho State at 7:05 p.m. Sacramento State will look to avoid falling to 0-4 in league for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
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