MEN’S HOOPS STAYS UNBEATEN ON THE HOMESTAND, DEFEATS SOUTHERN UTAH, 84-73

MEN’S HOOPS STAYS UNBEATEN ON THE HOMESTAND, DEFEATS SOUTHERN UTAH, 84-73

SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento State scored 52 second half points, including 33 points over the final 9:14, to beat Southern Utah, 84-73, on Thursday night Valentine's Day hoops at the Nest.

The Hornets, who trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, caught fire in a second half that saw the team outscore Southern Utah, 52-40. Part of that scoring output was a game-sealing 33-22 run over the final 9:14 that included four 3-pointers, two 3-point plays and a two-handed Bryce Fowler dunk over a pair of Southern Utah defenders.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa had 10 points during the spurt, including three 3-pointers over a three-minute span. Fowler's dunk, which brought the crowd to its feet, resulted in an and-1, and gave the Hornets a 70-60 lead with 3:29 to play. Southern Utah would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way as the Hornets went 8-for-11 from the line over the final 1:24. Marcus Graves (11), Mauriohooho-Le'afa (10) and Fowler (7) combined for 28 of the Hornets' final 33 points.

Sacramento State used a 12-0 run late in the first half to nearly erase its large deficit and go into the locker room at halftime trailing just 33-32. Then the second half began, and it was all Hornets. In that second stanza, Sacramento State shot 57% (17-30) from the field, 55% (6-11) from the 3-point line and 80% (12-15) from the free throw line. Sacramento State finished the game 25-for-30 (83%) from the charity stripe, including 8-for-8 from Joshua Patton and 10-of-12 from Graves.

Speaking of Patton, he posted his third double-double of the season with game highs in points (22) and rebounds (13) while shooting 7-for-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. It was Patton that kept the game within striking distance in the first half when the Hornets were struggling from the field. He had 15 points and seven boards by halftime.

With the victory, Sacramento State improved to 11-11 overall and 5-8 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets have won two straight and five of their last nine games after opening the season with an 0-4 league mark. In addition, Sacramento State improved its record to 7-3 at home and 65-28 inside the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season.

Sacramento State is now 2-0 on its season-long four-game homestand, which included a 78-67 win over Portland State on Monday night. The team will play again at home on Saturday night against Northern Arizona at 7:05 p.m.

The Hornets split the season series with Southern Utah, which included a 76-71 loss in Cedar City on Jan. 19. Sacramento State has now won six straight, and 10 of the last 11 meetings at home against the Thunderbirds. Overall, the Hornets are 14-17 all-time against Southern Utah.

The Thunderbirds, who had been one of the hottest teams in the league, had their three-game winning streak snapped. Prior to tonight's loss, Southern Utah had won seven of its last 10 games.

Four Hornet starters scored in double figures, including Patton, Graves (19 points, four assists, two steals), Mauriohooho-Le'afa (season-high 18 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals) and Fowler (11 points, three rebounds, four assists). Graves scored 14 of those points in the second half, and Mauriohooho-Le'afa finished the game 5-for-11 from distance. All four of those starters played between 33 and 35 minutes.

Ethan Esposito added nine points and six rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench while Osi Nwachukwu had two points, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Patton's game-high 22 points marked the first time in eight games that Graves did not either lead or tie for the team lead in scoring.

Sacramento State finished the game shooting 46% (26-56) from the field, 44% (7-16) from distance and 83% (25-30) from the line. Southern Utah converted on just one less field goal than the Hornets (25-of-59, 42%) and had the same number of made 3-pointers (7), but Sacramento State had a healthy advantage at the free throw line. The T-Birds were 16-for-21 from the stripe.

For Southern Utah, Brandon Better had a team-high 19 points but shot just 5-for-14 from the field. Harrison Butler had eight points and 10 rebounds, and Andre Adams had 14 points and five boards.

Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday night when the Hornets host Northern Arizona at 7:05 p.m.