EL PASO, Texas -- UTEP attempted 31 more free throws than the Hornets on the way to a 30-for-45 charity stripe parade, and the Miners defeated Sacramento State, 69-51, in a non-conference men's basketball game Saturday evening at the Don Haskins Center.
Sacramento State was whistled for a robust 29 fouls, saw two of its players foul out (Cody Demps and Jordan Salley), and UTEP was in the bonus with 13 minutes left in the first half, and 12 minutes remaining in the second half. The Miners did convert on just 66.7 percent (30-for-45) of their freebies, but the team made 19 more free throws than the Hornets (11-for-14) which provided the difference in the game. The Miners were whistled for just 16 fouls.
Sacramento State played a good portion of the game without team co-captain and starting point guard Dylan Garrity, who injured his left ankle with 8:21 remaining in the first half. He did return for the final two and a half minutes, but did not play at all in the second half because of the injury.
Although the disparity at the free throw line was glaring, Sacramento State also shot a season-low .288 (17-59) from the floor while producing a season worst in field goals made (17). The Hornets went just 6-of-22 from the 3-point line (.273) and were outrebounded by a 45-30 margin. Conversely, UTEP shot .439 (18-41) from the floor, and outscored the Hornets in the paint by a wide margin (28-12).
The game marked the first-ever meeting between the two teams and UTEP was able to improve to 5-4 while Sacramento State dipped to 2-4. The Miners, who just lost to sixth-ranked Kansas by four points last weekend, also improved to 4-1 at home. Tonight concluded a run that saw Sacramento State play four of its last five games on the road, going 1-4 over that stretch.
Garrity opened the game by burying a 3-pointer on the Hornets' first possession and no team led by more than seven points the first 13:30 of the opening half. However, UTEP used a 14-0 run late in the first half to stretch a two-point lead to a 32-16 advantage with 2:12 left in the first half. Six different Miners scored, and the Hornets went 0-for-7 from the field while turning the ball over five times during the run.
Sacramento State would get no closer than within 13 points of UTEP's lead the rest of the evening as the Miners led by double figures the final 25:55 of the contest. UTEP opened up a lead as large as 21 points midway through the second half before settling for the 18-point win.
The loss for the Hornets overshadowed another nice performance from junior shooting guard Mikh McKinney, who finished with a game-high 22 points. The team co-captain shot 8-of-17 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line while also tallying four rebounds, three assists and a steal in a game-best 37 minutes. McKinney, who now leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per contest, has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and has two 20-plus point efforts in his last three games.
McKinney was the only Hornet to score more than six points, as 13 of the Hornets' 14 players on the roster made an appearance in tonight's game. Freshman center Eric Stuteville had six points and five rebounds in 17 minutes, Garrity had six points, and forward Joey Quigley had three points and a team-best seven rebounds. Freshman Nick Hornsby added five points and an assist, and senior Kendell Groom finished with four points.
Demps, who is the team's third leading scorer, had just two points and four assists before fouling out in 21 minutes. The team's fourth leading scorer, Salley, had no points and four rebounds before fouling out in 11 minutes.
Three players scored in double figures for UTEP, comprised of McKenzie Moore (14 points, 7 rebounds), John Bohannon (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Matt Willms (12 points). Julian Washburn led all players with 10 rebounds.
Sacramento State has just three games remaining on the non-conference schedule, and will return to the court a week from today when the team hosts William Jessup on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7:05 p.m.