Montana State (2-6) at Sacramento State (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 19, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Nest (1,200) -- Sacramento, California. Television: None. Home Record: Montana State 2-2, Sacramento State 3-1. Away Record: Montana State 0-3, Sacramento State 2-2. Neutral Record: Montana State 0-0, Sacramento State 0-0. Conference Record: Montana State 0-1, Sacramento State 0-0. Series Record: Montana State leads, 25-14.
GAMES NOTES: A Big Sky Conference matchup is set for Wednesday night at the Nest as the Sacramento State Hornets play host to the Montana State Bobcats.
Montana State played in its conference opener on Monday and was unable to top Northern Arizona on the road in an 87-80 loss. That setback was the fifth in six games for the Bobcats, who have managed just a 2-6 record in the first eight games. Montana State is winless in three tries away from Bozeman. The Bobcats have lost by an average margin of 12.3 points per game in those road setbacks. The Bobcats step out of Big Sky play and Division I competition altogether in their next game against Northwest Indian College.
The Hornets have suffered back-to-back losses entering this contest with the most recent a 62-57 defeat to San Jose State on the road. The two losses have brought the Hornets back down to Earth after the team opened up with a 5-1 start. Sacramento State will be playing in its Big Sky opener in this matchup. The Hornets went 5-11 in conference play last year. In home games this season Sacramento has secured wins in three of four outings. The Hornets will host Montana in another league game on Friday.
Last season these teams split the season series with each earning a win on their home floor. Montana State leads the all-time series 25-14 and has won seven of the last nine meetings.
The Bobcats found themselves trailing by a hefty margin at halftime against Northern Arizona but clawed back in the second half before falling short. Montana State hit 52.8 percent of its shots from the field and outscored the Lumberjacks 18-0 from beyond the arc in final 20 minutes, but couldn't overcome an 18-point deficit at intermission. Paul Egwuonwu scored 12 points, ripped down nine rebounds and blocked three shots in the loss.
Despite the losing record, Montana State has actually scored pretty well this season, ranking second among Big Sky teams in points per game (73.8). However the Bobcats are not a particularly efficient offensive squad as they connect on only 40.9 percent of their shots from the field. Rebounding has also been an issue with the team having a nearly six-rebound difference on the boards. The struggles on the glass are nothing compared to the Bobcats efforts on the defensive end. Montana State has been burned for 76.8 points per game on 49.8 percent shooting. The Bobcats' opponent field goal percentage is among the 10 worst in the nation. Xavier Blount (13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is the top scorer on the roster and has been doing so by hitting an even 50.0 percent of his shots from the field. Antonio Biglow (12.9 ppg, 3.5 apg) is the primary ball handler and distributor but has been shooting a lowly 38.8 percent from the floor. Jamie Stewart (9.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Flavien Davis (9.4 ppg) are also capable scorers when called upon.
A 12-4 run from San Jose State late in the second half broke a 47-47 tie, leading to the loss for Sacramento State. The Hornets hit only three of their final nine field goal attempts and were outscored 8-0 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes. The Hornets hit only 31.3 percent of their shots from the field and were on the short end of a 59-34 difference in rebounds. John Dickson paced the Hornets with 16 points.
The Bobcats don't need to look far for the only team in the Big Sky that is scoring better than them. The Hornets are putting in 75.8 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting overall. Sacramento State ranks second in the conference in rebounds (37.2 pg) but has still managed to tally a negative differential on the boards (-3.7). On the defensive end Sacramento State has kept teams to 42.7 percent shooting but the Hornets are also allowing 71.9 points per game. A quartet of contributors are scoring in double figures for the Hornets. Dickson (16.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is the top offensive option as well as one of the better rebounders. Dylan Garrity (14.2 ppg, 5.8 apg) is a skilled scorer that shoots efficiently as well as an able facilitator. Mikh McKinney (12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.2 apg) fills up the stat sheet and Konner Veteto (10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) adds further depth in scoring and rebounding.
In a matchup of the top two scoring squads in the Big Sky, this will come down to who can control the pace and keep piling up the points. With its stable of scorers and a home crowd to back them, the Hornets have that edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Sacramento State 78, Montana State 72
12/19 10:40:54 ET