LATE FREE THROWS HELP DELIVER 69-67 MEN’S HOOPS WIN OVER UC RIVERSIDE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Junior point guard Dylan Garrity's free throws with eight seconds remaining broke a 67-67 tie and proved to be the game's final points in Sacramento State's 69-67 victory over UC Riverside in a non-conference men's basketball Sunday afternoon at The Nest.
In the Hornets' final non-conference game of the season, it was Sacramento State which hung on late after UC Riverside stormed back from a 38-28 halftime deficit. After the Highlanders took their only lead of the second half at 61-60 with six minutes remaining, the Hornets were able to close the game on a 9-6 run spanning the final 5:48 of the contest.
During that last 5:48, the Hornets went 7-for-8 from the free throw line, and Garrity provided the lone field goal with just under two minutes to give the home team a 67-63 lead. A pair of free throws from the Highlanders' Nick Gruninger on back-to-back possessions eventually tied the game at 67-67 with 29 seconds to play.
With the last possession in hand, Garrity whittled 20 seconds off the clock, and slashed towards the bucket with just under 10 seconds to play. After gaining a step on the Riverside defender, he was fouled by Steven Thornton with eight seconds remaining and calmly sunk both free throws of the double bonus situation.
The Highlanders then raced up the floor, and eventually settled for a Steven Jones jumper that fell short as time expired. Jones' jumper was highly contested by Hornet defender Joey Quigley and Nick Hornsby was able to secure the rebound to give Sacramento State a 4-5 record heading into Big Sky Conference play.
The game featured 49 fouls, 63 free throws and three players fouled out of the game, including Sacramento State's Cody Demps and Jordan Salley. The Hornets finished 25-of-33 (.758) from the free throw line, including 9-of-10 over the game's final 7:06. Conversely, UC Riverside went 21-of-30 from the charity stripe (.700).
The Highlanders dropped to 4-8 with the loss while Sacramento State improved to 2-2 against Big West Conference teams, including a victory at rival UC Davis in November.
"We've been having trouble holding leads in the second half lately, and we've got to do a better job protecting those leads," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "However, after our halftime advantage evaporated and Riverside eventually took a lead, I liked the way our guys fought hard and pulled out the win."
UC Riverside used a 20-10 run during the opening seven minutes of the second half to eventually tied the score at 48-48. No team led by more than four points the final 11:51 of the contest, and over that span, the game was tied on six different occasions.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting .455 (20-44) from the field and .333 (4-12) from the 3-point line. UC Riverside shot .396 (21-53) from the floor, and converted just 4 of its 16 shots from beyond the arc. The Hornets held a slim 34-33 advantage in the rebounding department.
Garrity scored each of the Hornets' final five points of the contest and finished with 14 points and four assists in 34 minutes. Junior Mikh McKinney had a team-high 15 points to go along with five rebounds in a game-best 36 minutes. McKinney went 8-for-8 from the free throw line and improved his season free throw percentage to .941 (32-34). He entered the game as the nation's eighth best free throw shooter by percentage.
Hornsby finished with eight points as well as a game and season-high nine rebounds, Zach Mills had eight points (including a pair of 3-pointers), and Demps had seven points and six rebounds before fouling out with 1:04 to play. Alex Tiffin had six points, and both Salley and Eric Stuteville chipped in four points.
For UC Riverside, the trio of Sam Finley (20), Gruninger (12) and Chris Patton (11) combined for 43 of the team's 67 points. All 11 points and seven rebounds for Patton came in the second half. Lucas Devenny added eight points and eight rebounds.
Sacramento State will begin Big Sky play next week with a pair of road games on Thursday at Montana State, and Saturday at Montana. Each of the Hornets' first four league games will be on the road.
NOTES -- The Hornets were playing for the first and only time this season on a Sunday…Sacramento State had just two home games during the entire month of December…the Highlanders outscored the Hornets, 39-31, in the second half of today's game, and Sacramento State is being outscored by an average of 6.1 points in the second half of games this season.