If Sacramento State can turn momentum into upset victories, an inconsistent Big Sky Conference regular season could give way to a historic postseason run.
Winners of three of their past four games, the Hornets (13-17) reached the Big Sky tournament quarterfinals by beating Idaho State 91-76 Tuesday at Reno Events Center. They will face Eastern Washington (21-10) on Thursday at 5:35 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
1-1 Sacramento State’s record in the past two Big Sky Conference tournaments
In the teams’ only meeting this season, host Eastern Washington won 77-72 on Feb. 2 behind 38 points from conference MVP Jacob Wiley. The Eagles went 13-5 in conference to earn the tournament’s second seed and a first-round bye. The Hornets, who opened Big Sky play 0-3 but finished 9-9, are seeded seventh.
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“Thursday is going to be a battle against Eastern Washington, and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Sac State coach Brian Katz said. “They were a win away from a (regular-season) conference title, and they’ve had a very nice season. Like we always say, the next game on our schedule is the most important game, and that certainly holds true for Thursday.”
Two more wins would take the Hornets to their first Big Sky tournament final. They finished 1-1 in the past two conference tournaments, including a loss in the 2015 semifinals to Eastern Washington, the eventual champion. That matchup was the teams’ only previous meeting in tournament play. That season, Sac State played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Though they enter the quarterfinals as underdogs, the Hornets showed they can pull off upsets when they beat regular-season champion North Dakota 57-53 on the road last Thursday. Sac State also knocked off Weber State 77-74 on Feb. 9 at the Nest. The Wildcats entered that game in first place at 9-1.
The Hornets used balance scoring Tuesday to beat the Bengals. Justin Strings, averaging a team-high 15.9 points, scored 15 of his 17 in the first half. Nick Hornsby and Marcus Graves finished with 18 points each, and Hornsby had nine rebounds.
Thursday’s winner will advance to Friday’s 8:05 p.m. semifinal against the winner between Weber State and Southern Utah.. The championship game will be Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPNU.
Thursday is going to be a battle against Eastern Washington, and we are looking forward to the challenge. They were a win away from a (regular-season) conference title, and they’ve had a very nice season. Like we always say, the next game on our schedule is the most important game, and that certainly holds true for Thursday.
Brian Katz, Sacramento State basketball coach
UC Davis men – The Big West Conference tournament tips off Thursday with the quarterfinals, where second-seeded UC Davis (19-12) faces seventh-seeded Cal Poly (11-19) at noon at Honda Center in Anaheim.
The teams split the season series with each winning at home by four points.
The Aggies are coming off a 79-49 loss at UC Irvine on Saturday. After winning three in a row at home to cap an 11-0 season at the Pavilion, UCD dropped the regular-season finale to the Anteaters, who took the No. 1 seed. The Aggies’ Chima Moneke, an All-Big West first-team selection averaging 14.5 points, went scoreless at UC Irvine.
UCD last reached the semifinals in 2015, losing 65-58 to Hawaii. The Aggies have never reached the Big West tournament championship game.