FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Junior Joshua Patton scored a career-high 34 points, none more important than his game-winning jumper with 0.5 seconds left, to lift Sacramento State to a 66-64 road win at Northern Arizona on Thursday evening at the Walkup Skydome.
Patton's last-second heroics were part of an incredible night that saw the center post career highs in both points (34) and rebounds (11) while shooting 13-of-17 from the field and 8-for-14 from the free throw line. He scored 21 points in the second half on 7-of-9 shooting, and his step back six-footer with a half second left proved to be the game winner. The 34 points are tied for the fourth most in the Hornets' Div. I era (1991-pres.), and tied for the most by a Hornet in the last 10 years.
Northern Arizona had just gone on a 9-2 run spanning 4:50 of game clock, and a Davon Bolton free throw with 8.9 seconds left tied the game at 64-64. After making his first free throw to tie, Bolton missed the second. Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa rebounded the ball and dished to Marcus Graves who raced up the floor, and found Patton about 10 feet away from the bucket. Patton took one dribble, got inside the lane and went up for a contested six-footer that found the bottom of the net.
NAU still had a chance to win, but did not get a shot off in time as the buzzer sounded after the inbounds pass. Patton's big shot completed a game in which the Hornets led for nearly 32 minutes of clock, held a 20-point lead during the first half (24-4, 10:03), and nearly let a seven-point lead with under five minutes to play slip away. Sacramento State scored just four points in the final five minutes, including a Patton bucket with 14 seconds left that game the Hornets a 64-63 advantage.
Sacramento State led at halftime, 38-32, and saw NAU outscore the Hornets, 32-28, in the second half. Both teams finished the game shooting 42 percent from the field, but the Hornets shot 17-for-27 from the free throw line compared to 11-of-19 for Northern Arizona. Sacramento State also owned a 37-34 advantage on the glass and outscored the Lumberjacks in the paint by a 34-24 margin. Nearly all of those points inside the paint came from Patton, who is now averaging a team-high 15.4 points per game in conference play.
With the victory, Sacramento State snapped its five-game losing streak while improving to 7-7 overall and 1-4 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets, who picked up their second road win of the season (Dec. 1 at Cal State Northridge), could just as easily be 4-1 in league play but let three very winnable games slip away late in close losses to Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Montana State.
The win was just just the fourth in school history in Flagstaff, as the Hornets are now 4-22 all-time on the road at Northern Arizona. Two of those wins have come in the last three seasons. Tonight was the first of a brief road trip that will see the Hornets play again on Saturday at Southern Utah at 12:05 p.m. PST.
Northern Arizona, which was playing at home for the first time since New Year's Eve, dropped to 4-12 overall and 2-4 in league. In its previous two games, NAU had won at Idaho State (81-69) and lost by two points at Southern Utah (84-82). NAU dropped to 2-3 at home, which includes a 74-68 win against Montana State.
Sacramento State won despite Northern Arizona committing just five turnovers (one in the second half). Prior to tonight, the Hornets, who are one of the nation's best teams at generating turnovers, had forced at least 14 turnovers in every game this season. The Lumberjacks outscored the Hornets in points off turnovers by a 14-6 margin. However, Sacramento State made the big buckets late, and saw 11 of its 37 rebounds come on the offensive glass.
Patton was the only Hornet to score in double figures. In fact, he was the only Hornet to score more than seven points. Nine different Sacramento State players cracked the scoring column, but Patton accounted for over 50 percent of the team's production (34 of 66 points). James Bridges scored seven points, including 2-for-3 from the 3-point line. The true freshman has buried five of his last eight shots from distance spanning three games.
Osi Nwachukwu had six points, four rebounds and a steal, Graves finished with five points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal, and Ethan Esposito had four points in 11 minutes. For Graves, it marked just the second time all season he failed to finish with double-figure points. Overall, he still leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per contest.
Calvin Martin, Graves and Patton each drew a charge tonight, and both Martin and Chibueze Jacobs secured four rebounds.
Four NAU players scored in double figures, including Ted McCree (14 points, 3 steals), Bernie Andre (13 points, 6 rebounds), Brooks DeBisschop (13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals) and Carlos Hines (12 points, 2 steals). The Lumberjacks finished with 10 steals, but Sacramento State turned the ball over just 12 times.
After Saturday's game at Southern Utah, the Hornets will play twice at home next week.
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