SACRAMENTO -- Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by Ethan Esposito's 17 points and seven rebounds, and Sacramento State never trailed in a 71-57 win over Weber State on Saturday evening inside the Nest.
The victory allowed Sacramento State to win every game of its season-long three-game homestand. And perhaps, more impressively, the Hornets never trailed in any of those three games, which included victories over Idaho State and Northern Arizona.
In addition, the Hornets improved to 10-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky Conference. After dropping its first two conference games of the year on the road to the Montana schools, Sacramento State has won three straight to push itself over the .500 mark in conference play.
The 10-4 record is the best 14-game mark in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the top mark since the 1987-88 Div. II team began the year with an 11-3 record.
The Hornets also improved to 7-0 at the Nest, the first time that has happened since the 2005-06 squad accomplished the feat. Dating back to 2012, the Hornets are 74-30 inside the Nest, good for a dominant .712 winning percentage.
Weber State, which was picked to finish third in the Big Sky preseason coaches poll and is usually a conference powerhouse, dropped to 5-11 overall and 1-4 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State is just 7-18 all-time at home vs. Weber State, but has won four of the last six meetings against the Wildcats in the Nest.
After leading by six points or less a good portion of the first half, Sacramento State took control by using a 14-5 run spanning the final 6:16 to go into halftime with a 28-18 lead. During the homestand, the Hornets had double-digit leads at halftime in every game, including 20-point advantages in each of the first two games.
Weber State closed the deficit to seven points (64-57) with 2:21 to play, but would get no closer. In fact, Sacramento State closed the final two minutes on a 7-0 run to win by 14 points. That 14-point advantage was also the Hornets' largest lead of the evening. Once again, Sacramento State's defense and rebounding were outstanding, limiting Weber State to 39% shooting, including 2-of-11 from the 3-point line. The Hornets also controlled the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats by a substantial margin (36-28).
In 14 games, Sacramento State has now held its opponent to 60 points or less 12 times, and has outrebounded all but three opponents. The Hornet offense shot 48% for the game and came to life in the second half when the team scored 43 points and shot 60% (15-25) from the field. Sacramento State also owned big advantages in points off turnovers (16-8), second chance points (15-7) and bench points (23-3). The Hornets turned the ball over just nine times and a massive 14 of the team's 36 rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Esposito's 17 points were a season high as the junior finished 7-of-14 from the field while also adding seven rebounds (four offensive). He was joined in double digits by Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (14 points, 6 assists, 1 block, 1 steal), Joshua Patton (10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Bryce Fowler (10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists). Mauriohooho-Le'afa shot 4-for-7 from the 3-point line and is now 7-of-12 from long range over the last two games.
Esposito (+16), Mauriohooho-Le'afa (+14), Fowler (+14) and Patton (+13) all had large plus/minus ratios. James Bridges finished with eight points (2-4 3FG), point guard Brandon Davis had seven points and four assists, William FitzPatrick three points, and Chibueze Jacobs had two points, three rebounds and two assists.
For Weber State, Jarrick Harding led the way with 19 points. Both Tim Fuller and Michal Kozak had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Sacramento State is back on the road next week when the team travels to Northern Colorado on Thursday for a 6:05 p.m. PST tip, and Saturday at Southern Utah at 12:05 p.m. PST.
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