SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State came all the way back from a seven-point deficit with one minute to play, but a Will Cherry free throw with 2.5 seconds left provided the final outcome in Montana's 61-60 victory over the Hornets in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Friday evening at the Nest.
After a pair of free throws from Mathias Ward gave the Grizzlies a 56-49 lead with 1:07 to play, the Hornets began their comeback with a three-pointer from to draw within, 56-52, with 58 seconds left. After a subsequent Hornet foul, Mathias buried two more free throws (0:49), but Hornet point guard 's layup with 30 seconds remaining cut the lead to 58-54.
After another Sacramento State foul, Montana was true from the free throw line again as Jordan Gregory sunk a pair to put the Griz up, 60-54, with 25 seconds remaining. Six seconds later, Hornet freshman drained a three-pointer to draw the Hornets within three points (60-57), the closest the team had been to Montana's lead since the 1:14 mark of the first half.
Sacramento State immediately fouled Kareem Jamar on the inbounds pass with 19 seconds left, and Jamar missed both free throws. Demps pulled the rebound, and dished to Garrity who dribbled up the floor and drained a three ball with a hand in his face to tie the score at 60-60 with seven seconds left. Montana, which elected to inbounds the ball rather than use its final timeout, put the ball in Cherry's hands. The reigning unanimous first team all-Big Sky selection dribbled the length of the floor and collided with Garrity inside the key about 12 feet from the basket. The officials elected to call a blocking foul on Garrity with 2.5 seconds left, and Cherry hit the first free throw.
Cherry then missed the second freebie, and with the Hornets out of timeouts, had to settle for a 70-foot prayer by Garrity that failed to draw iron as time expired.
The Hornets (6-4, 1-1) missed out on an opportunity to start the year with a 7-3 record, which would have been the best in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.). In addition, Sacramento State dropped its 12th straight game to Montana, a drought that hasn't seen the Hornets beat the Grizzlies since Jan. 4, 2007. Montana, which is the defending Big Sky regular season and tournament champions, improved to 6-4 overall and 2-0 in the Big Sky.
The Hornets got out of the gates slow, missing 15 of their first 16 field goal attempts which allowed Montana to open up a 17-6 lead midway through the first half. Sacramento State had to play catchup the rest of the way, as the Grizzlies eventually opened up a game-high 13-point lead (52-39) with 7:36 remaining in the contest.
After shooting just 25.0 percent (6-24) in the first half, the Hornets shot 50.0 percent (15-30) in a second half which saw the team outscore Montana, 40-36. Sacramento State held a commanding 35-24 edge in the rebounding department, limiting the Grizzlies to just three offensive rebounds the entire evening. In fact, the Hornets outscored Montana in second-chance points by a 10-3 margin.
The Griz shot 47.6 percent (20-42) from the field, including 58.8 percent (10-17) in the second half. Both teams drained five three-pointers and Montana converted on three more free throws than the Hornets.
Sacramento State used just eight players in tonight's game, and had four finish in double figures. had a team-best 15 points to go along with seven rebounds, McKinney had 14 points and four assists, Garrity 12 points and four assists, and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The double-double for Veteto was his second of the season, and third of his Sacramento State career. All five starters (McKinney, Garrity, Dickson, Veteto and ) played at least 29 minutes in tonight's contest, including 36 minutes from both Eberhard and Garrity.
Montana was led by Ward's 16 points and five rebounds while Jamar had 11 points and Cherry finished with 10 points, five rebounds and four steals in a game-high 39 minutes. Cherry was playing in just his third game after returning from a foot injury which sidelined him the first seven games of the season. No Montana player had more than five rebounds.
The Hornets will now take a season-long 12 days off before returning to action on Jan. 3 at Northern Arizona.
NOTES -- After Eberhard scored the Hornets' first field goal with a lay-up at the 16:28 mark of the first half, the senior did not attempt another shot the rest of the game…Montana converted on 7-of-11 from the free throw line over the final 1:07 of the contest.