SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Despite playing without one of its best players Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (injury) and enduring a second half scoring drought of nearly 11 minutes, Sacramento State nearly pulled off a road win, but ultimately fell at Santa Clara, 60-58, on Saturday afternoon.
In game that featured multiple lengthy runs by both teams, neither the Hornets or Broncos led by more than 10 points the entire way. In fact, it was a 14-0 Santa Clara run that lasted nearly 10 minutes of game clock that gave the Broncos a 45-38 lead at the midway point of the second half. Sacramento State had closed the final 6:35 of the first half on a 25-10 run to take a 36-31 lead into halftime.
After the Hornets scored the first two points of the second half to take their largest lead of the game at 38-31, Sacramento State proceeded to go 10:53 of game clock without another point.
After the 14-0 Bronco run, the Hornets kept chipping away at their seven-point deficit until a 3-pointer from Elijah McCullough finally had Sacramento State back to a tie game (56-56) with 1:08 to play. Free throws from Santa Clara's Josip Vrankic (0:40) and Sacramento State's Bryce Fowler (0:24) pushed the score to 58-58. With 24 seconds left, Santa Clara called a timeout, and with the shot clock turned off, the Broncos' Trey Wertz whittled the clock down until streaking down the left side of the lane for a contested layup. Sacramento State quickly inbounded, and Davis flew down the court to secure a good look at a running 10-footer at the buzzer. But his shot rimmed out, allowing the Broncos to escape with a 60-58 win.
In a matchup of two teams receiving a considerable amount of votes in the Mid-Major top 25 poll, Santa Clara was able to improve to 10-2 overall and a perfect 10-0 at home. Sacramento State dropped to 6-2, and the Hornets have still never defeated Santa Clara in program history (0-7). Had the Hornets won today, the team's 7-1 start would have been the best in program history (1948-pres.). Instead, Sacramento State had to settle for a tough loss in the first of just two remaining non-conference games.
As usual, Sacramento State's defense, ranked third in the nation in points allowed, was on display. Santa Clara, which averaged 78.5 points per game, was limited to just 60 points. The Broncos shot 41% (24-58) from the field and 2-of-14 from the 3-point line, but did own a commanding 42-18 advantage in points in the paint. Sacramento State outrebounded the Broncos, 35-28, and did not allow a second chance Santa Clara point all afternoon.
The Hornets shot just 36% from the field, but were 7-for-14 from the 3-point line and 74% (17-of-23) from the free throw line. Sacramento State also had 12 fast break points, and received 20 points of production from its bench. After outscoring the Broncos by five points in the first half, Sacramento State was outscored in the second half by a 29-22 margin. The Hornets had 19 turnovers compared to just 10 miscues for the Broncos.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa, the team's third leading scorer and one of its best defenders, was not able to play after suffering an injury during practice on Thursday. Despite playing undermanned, Sacramento State had four players score in double figures, including Davis who notched 14 points, four assists and three assists in a game-high 36 minutes. He had six points during the final five minutes of the game.
Center Joshua Patton had 10 points, nine rebounds and two steals, but fouled out with 40 seconds remaining while trying to draw a charge. Fowler had 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Chibueze Jacobs had 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. Fowler (2-of-5), Jacobs (2-of-3) and McCullough (6 points, 2-of-2) combined to go 6-for-10 from the 3-point line.
James Bridges had four points, two rebounds and three steals, and Osi Nwachukwu added six rebounds and a blocked shot.
Santa Clara was led by Vrankic's 15 points, and 13 of those points came in the second half. The Broncos also had four players score in double figures.
Sacramento State will play its final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday when its hosts Cal Poly at 7:05 p.m. After that game, the Hornets do not play again until opening Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 28 at Montana State.
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