GAME NOTES: The UC Riverside Highlanders pay a visit to the Sacramento State Hornets, as the two teams meet up for a non-conference bout at The Nest.
The Highlanders have been reeling of late, with losses in three of their last four games. The rough stretch has pushed them down to 4-7 overall. Most recently, UC Riverside suffered a 71-64 loss to Northern Illinois, which came at home. The Highlanders are just 1-4 on the road, but they return home to host Waldorf next.
Sacramento State has also lost three of its last four matchups. Most recently, the Hornets were on the wrong end of a 59-51 decision at Cal State Fullerton. At home, the results have been a bit better, although opportunities have been limited, with the Hornets going 2-1 at The Nest. Big Sky Conference play begins on Thursday against Montana State, a game that opens a four-game road trip as well for Sacramento.
UC Riverside has won the last three matchups between these two programs, and owns a 12-4 all-time series lead.
In its loss to Northern Illinois, UC Riverside dug itself a hole it could not get out of as the Highlanders trailed, 33-23, at halftime. While they had 11 more field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes, they knocked down just 38.7 percent of their chances.
Ineffective shooting has plagued UCR, especially of late with the team netting 64 points or less in each of the last four contests. Overall, the Highlanders are only scoring 65 ppg and shooting at a meager 42.6 percent. However, they have kept themselves alive by holding foes to 67.5 ppg on 41.6 percent shooting. Taylor Johns (13.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Chris Patton (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are both the top scoring options, as well as the team's leading rebounders. Johns had 12 boards, but only eight points against NIU, while Patton tacked on 10 points off the bench during a lackluster 3-of-10 shooting performance.
Sacramento State knocked down nine shots from beyond the arc, but didn't do a good enough job getting into the lane against Cal State Fullerton. The Hornets were outscored 15-4 from the free-throw line and 22-14 in the paint. They also fell short in the rebounding battle by a count of 41-29.
Offensive inconsistency has been an issue for Sacramento State as well. The Hornets are only posting 62.9 ppg and shooting at a 41.1 percent clip. The Hornets also resemble the Highlanders defensively, holding opponents to 66.4 ppg. Mikh McKinney (14.9 ppg) and Dylan Garrity (12 ppg) are the top offensive options for the Hornets, forming a solid core in the backcourt. The list of scorers dries up quickly from there, with Cody Demps (7.1 ppg) the only other player putting up more than six points per contest.
This matchup sets up as a low-scoring affair between two teams that are really struggling on offense. In the end, playing at home might be the advantage the Hornets need to pull out a victory.
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