The Sacramento State Hornets lost a crucial game to the Montana Grizzlies Thursday night at The Nest, dropping a 70-55 that has them on the outside looking in at the Big Sky Conference tournament next week.
The Hornets (13-15, 9-10 Big Sky) are one of five teams still with a chance to clinch one of the final three berths in the seven-team event. Weber State has already clinched the top seed and will host the tournament with Montana, North Dakota and Northern Arizona also locked in.
Northern Colorado, Portland State and Eastern Washington are all 10-9, while Montana State and the Hornets are 9-10 in conference play. Those two teams meet Saturday at The Nest, meaning the loser is eliminated from tournament contention.
The winner will need help. Eastern Washington hosts Weber State, Northern Colorado is at last-place Southern Utah and Portland State hosts Idaho State on Saturday.
The Grizzlies (17-11, 12-7) took control in the first half, running off 12 straight points to turn a 12-11 deficit into a 23-12 lead. Montana extended its advantage to 43-24 at halftime and Sacramento State never got closer than nine points in the second half.
Montana was 25-for-46 (54.3 percent) overall, 8-for-20 (40 percent) from 3-point range and 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) from the free throw line. Sacramento State was 20-for-43 (46.5 percent), 5-for-16 (31.3 percent) and 10-for-15 (66.7 percent).
The Hornets outrebounded the Grizzlies 28-25, but turned the ball over 15 times to Montana’s nine.
Saturday’s matchup with Montana State tips at 7:05 p.m.