On Thursday night at The Nest, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team rallied from 20 points down early in the second half to upset Big Sky Conference leader Montana.
But despite another dramatic comeback effort on Saturday against visiting Montana State, the Hornets couldn’t quite engineer a repeat. They fell to the Bobcats 79-76 to extend an amazing record of Saturday futility this season. Sac State (10-11, 3-7) is now 0-8 when playing on Saturday.
Still, Sac State made it interesting for the announced crowd of 929. After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half and 12 early in the second, they closed to within one or two points four times, including twice in the final eight seconds.
Freshman forward Grant Dressler hit a deep three-pointer with eight seconds to cut Montana State’s lead to 75-73, then senior guard Dreon Barlett hit a three-pointer from the corner with three seconds to help the Hornets close to within one 77-76.
But Montana State (10-13, 5-6) followed each of those baskets with a pair of free throws, first by senior forward Danny Robison and then by senior guard Marcus Colbert. A Hornets’ length-of-the-court pass with 0.9 seconds was batted away as time expired.
“I love our guys, there is no quit in them,” said Sac State coach Brian Katz. “But we’ve got some bugs we still have to work out.”
Montana State freshman guard Tyler Hall scored 25 points – 18 in the first half – Colbert had 16 points and sophomore guard Zach Green 14 points and the Bobcats outrebounded the Hornets 47 to 39, including 19-11 on the offensive end. Quinton Everett, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, had a game-high 15 rebounds and added 11 points for Montana State.
“They’re No. 1 in the conference in offensive rebounds,” Katz said. “They are really unique. They are a small group, that shoots a lot of threes and they just run them down when they miss. And they played really hard tonight.”
Half of Montana State’s 66 shots were three-point attempts. The Bobcats shot only 38 percent (25 of 66) from the field and 24 percent (8 of 33) from beyond the arc.
But while sophomore forward Justin Strings led Sac State with team highs of 23 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots and Barlett had 16 points and seven rebounds, the other Hornets struggled to find their shots against the quick and athletic Bobcats.
Sophomore guard Marcus Graves, averaging 13.7 points, was held to six points, his second lowest output of the season.
Sac State shot 41 percent (24 of 58) from the floor and didn’t get hot from three until late.
Montana State’s win gives it a sweep of the regular season series. The Bobcats posted a 71-64 win in Bozeman on Jan. 7.
The win also snapped a four-game losing streak at The Nest to the Hornets.
But there was still some encouraging news for Sac State.
While senior point guard and co-captain Cody Demps missed his ninth consecutive game, he suited up and participated in warm-ups for the first time since injuring his quad.
Katz said Demps was cleared to play Friday, but won’t be ready to return to game action until he has had several practices under his belt.
It’s possible he could see action on Thursday when the Hornets play at Weber State.
The Hornets have played without a starter due to injury in 11 of the last 12 games, and the team is 3-8 during that stretch.
But Katz said it has given other players a chance to develop, including freshman guard Jeff Wu and sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja. The two combined for 14 points against Montana State and were instrumental in helping the Hornets beat Montana.
“Jiday was not playing at all and we were forced to play him,” Katz said. “He got an opportunity, and he is pretty good. He and Jeff Wu have really developed with Cody being out.”