Players riding a streak of good fortune almost always hit that Waterloo moment when they learn they need to work harder, dig deeper and be better.
That reality hit the Sacramento State men’s basketball team late Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the two-day, four-team Sacramento State Basketball Invitational.
Unsung and unintimidated South Dakota came into The Nest and smacked the Hornets in the mouth in front of an announced crowd of 778.
The Coyotes (3-3) shot 63 percent (12 of 19) from three-point range and 53.8 percent overall (35 of 65) to beat the Hornets 96-90 and deny them the chance to become the first Sac State men’s basketball team to start the season 5-0. It also was just the Hornets’ third loss in 18 games over two seasons on their home court.
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So the 4-1 Hornets will have to try to bounce back at 5:35 p.m. Sunday against Pacific in the invitational finale.
Unlike their previous wins in which they rallied from second-half deficits against Arizona State, Seattle and UC Davis, the Hornets couldn’t do it against the Coyotes.
The lead changed 13 times and the score was tied seven times, but the Hornets last led 81-80 on a Nick Hornsby layup with 4:39 remaining. A D.J. Davis layup 32 seconds later put South Dakota ahead to stay.
True freshman 6-foot-9 reserve forward Dan Jech had a career night with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field, including 4 for 4 from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Tre Burnette added 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Shy McClelland 15 points and six assists as South Dakota scored 31 points above the Hornets’ defensive average of 65.8 coming into the game.
“Today we were kind of hesitant and let them attack us,” said sophomore forward Justin Strings, who had 17 points and four rebounds. “Hats off to them. They kept making open shots.”
Hornsby, a junior co-captain, said South Dakota “smacked us in the face.”
“We weren’t ready today,” said Hornsby, who had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds. “That’s probably the worst we’ve played all season.”
Senior guard Cody Demps led the Hornets with 19 points and added 11 assists, senior guard Dreon Bartlett had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and junior center Eric Stuteville had 12 points and six rebounds as the Hornets shot 52.9 percent (36 of 68) from the field.
Though he said his team needed to play better, Sac State coach Brian Katz credited South Dakota for having “a great game plan.”
“We couldn’t get stops,” Katz said. “They have five guys on their roster who are legitimate penetrators. They are a nightmare to guard.”
Perhaps the only positive from the defeat is that Sac State has little time to think about it.
“(Sunday) will be a heck of a challenge, too,” Katz said. “(The season is) such a marathon. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low.”
Eastern Washington 70, Pacific 63 – Austin McBroom had a game-high 20 points, including 10 of 10 from the foul line; Venky Jois added 16 points and seven rebounds and the Eagles (3-2) held the Tigers (1-4) to 38 percent shooting (21 of 56). Ray Bowles led Pacific with 13 points before fouling out.
Sacramento State Basketball Invitational
- Where: The Nest
- Sunday’s games: South Dakota vs. Eastern Washington, 2:35 p.m.; Sacramento State vs. Pacific, 5:35 p.m.
- Tickets: hornetsports.com/tickets