Sacramento State was as frigid as the temperatures outside The Nest on Thursday night as the Hornets fell 69-53 to Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball opener.
The Hornets shot 32.4 percent (22 of 68) from the floor and 16.7 (4 of 24) percent from 3-point range and trailed from start to finish in losing for the first time at home in four games this season.
It was a step back for a Hornets team that has struggled with its shooting touch most of the season but looked much better in an 88-86 double overtime win over Abilene Christian at home Dec. 17 and a 74-66 loss at Washington State in which the Hornets led late on Dec. 21.
Sacramento State (3-9) missed shots in droves and threw up several air balls against Northern Colorado’s active, collapsing zone defense. The Bears were red hot for most of the first half in shooting 53 percent (16 of 30) and building a 39-25 lead. Sac State closed within 41-31 90 seconds into the second half but quickly fell behind by as many as 26 points.
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“I didn’t see this coming,” Sac State coach Brian Katzsaid. “I’m very, very disappointed. They were better than us, quicker than us in every area.”
Guard Jordan Davis, averaging 20 points this season, led Northern Colorado (5-7) with 21 points, five assists and four rebounds and guard DJ Miles had 11 points.
Forward Justin Strings topped Sac State with 13 points and had six rebounds, and freshman guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa had a season-high 10 points. But guard Marcus Graves, coming off back-to-back 21 point games, was held to six points on 3-of-14 shooting. He had eight assists.
Northern Colorado outrebounded the taller Hornets 53-35, outscored them 36-20 in the paint and had 17 points off turnovers to Sac State’s 11.
The Hornets even lost the battle on the foul line where they had been so good the previous two games. Northern Colorado was 14 of 21 while Sac State was just 5 of 8 – a season low for attempts ‑ and they didn’t score their first points from the line until Grant Dressler made two shots with 2:12 to play.
The Hornets were a collective 38 for 50 in the games against Abilene Christian and Washington State.
Katz said the Hornets were impatient and took too many 3-point attempts instead of working for a better shot. Sac State’s 6-foot-11 Eric Stuteville got only three shots, making two, as two or three Bears would smother him every time he had the ball. The Hornets’ 6-7 forward Nick Hornsby shot 1 of 5, though he had a team-high 10 rebounds.
“They really took away a lot of things we like to do,” Katz said. “They collapsed. They did a really good job on the bigs.”
Northern Colorado, under first-year coach Jeff Linder, has no shot of playing for the conference title and is ineligible for the conference’s postseason tournament. Northern Colorado has imposed penalties on itself over unspecified NCAA violations allegedly committed by former coach B.J. Hill, who was fired in April.
Sac State will host North Dakota on Saturday at noon.
Northern Colorado 95, Sacramento State women 88 in Greeley, Colo. – Courtney Smith had a game-high 23 points and had 10 rebounds to lead five Bears (9-3) in double figures in the Big Sky opener.
Maranne Johnson had 14 points, Emily Easom scored 13 and Margaret Huntington had 12 points and a career-high 21 rebounds for the Hornets (4-8). The rebound total was the third most in program history.
Sac State led 49-40 at the half but was outscored 31-16 by Northern Colorado in the third quarter.