BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Sacramento State played for the first time in 10 days, and the rust showed as the Hornets shot just 34 percent from the field in a 66-51 road loss at Montana State on Saturday evening at Worthington Arena.
The game marked the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams and Sacramento State dropped to 7-3 overall and 0-1 in league play. Prior to today, each of the Hornets' last three games had been decided by three points or less, and Sacramento State's only loss by more than two points all year came against 21st-ranked Colorado. In addition, the Hornets had been off to their best start in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.).
However, Sacramento State had a tough time scoring the basketball as the Hornets scored 28 points in the first half and 23 in the second. The Hornets shot 34% (18-53) from the field and converted just 12 two-point field goals. Sacramento State did shoot 40% (6-15) from the 3-point line, including 5-for-7 in the second half.
Sacramento State entered the game averaging 21.0 trips to the free throw line per game, but went to the charity stripe a season-low 11 times this evening, converting on nine of those attempts. The Hornets were also outrebounded (37-34) for just the third time all season.
Montana State improved to 7-5 overall, 1-0 in league play and 4-1 at home. The Bobcats have defeated the Hornets eight straight times in Bozeman, with the Hornets' last road win at Montana State coming during the 2010-11 season.
The Hornets held early leads of 3-0 and 5-4 but the Bobcats led the final 38 minutes of the contest. Both teams battled back and forth the majority of the first half until Montana State used an 11-0 run spanning five minutes of both the first and second halves. By the end of the run, the Bobcats held a 43-28 advantage with 18:02 remaining. Sacramento State would get no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
Montana State finished the game shooting 42% (25-59) from the field, 44% (7-16) from the 3-point line and 90% (9-10) from the free throw line. The six 3-pointers were the second highest allowed by Sacramento State's nationally ranked defense this year. The Hornets had allowed just one opponent to score better than 60 points this year prior to today (72 in a win over Pepperdine).
Hornet center Joshua Patton was impressive, finishing with a team-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. He also had team highs in rebounds (7), blocks (4) and minutes (32). Fellow big man Ethan Esposito finished with 10 points and guard Grant Greabell had a career-high tying eight points. The sophomore shot 3-for-3 from the field, and 2-of-2 from the 3-point line, and all eight of his points came in the second half.
After missing the last two games with injury, senior guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa had five points, two assists and three rebounds in 29 minutes. All 14 active and non-injured Sacramento State players appeared in today's game. The Hornets received 18 points from their bench, including Greabell (8), William FitzPatrick (3), James Bridges (3), Chibueze Jacobs (2) and Bryce Fowler (2). The two points for Fowler were a season low as he entered the game averaging 10.1 points per contest.
Jubrile Belo and Harald Frey both had 18 points for Montana State as the duo combined for 36 of the Bobcats' 66 points.
The Hornets will play their second conference game of the season on Monday evening when the team travels to Missoula to take on Montana at 6 p.m. PST.
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