MEN’S HOOPS BEATS SOUTHERN UTAH, COMPLETES HOMESTAND WITH 4-0 RECORD
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State's Mikh McKinney had 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, and Dylan Garrity added 13 points and five assists as the Hornets defeated Southern Utah, 68-56, Monday evening at The Nest.
With the victory, the Hornets (10-11, 6-6) won their fourth straight game and completed their season-long four-game homestand with a perfect 4-0 record. Sacramento State now finds itself in the thick of the chase for the one of the seven spots into the Big Sky Conference's postseason tournament with eight regular season games remaining. The top seven teams in the 11-member league qualify for the postseason event, and besides first-place Weber State (10-2) and last-place Southern Utah (0-12), the other nine squads are all within two games of each other. The Hornets are sitting in a three-way tie for sixth place with Portland State and Montana State.
Below are some particulars about the Hornets' current run...
• The team's overall four-game winning streak is the longest since the 2011-12 season, and gives the Hornets just their fifth winning streak of at least four games since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.
• Dating back to the home win against Eastern Washington on Jan. 18, the Hornets have won five straight at home, the longest run since the 2005-06 team won seven in a row at home.
• The team completed a four-game homestand with a perfect 4-0 record for the first time since the 1981-82 season.
• Sacramento State's four-game conference winning streak matches the longest for the program since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97 (the 2011-12, 2005-06 and 2004-05 squads also accomplished the feat). The program has never won five consecutive Big Sky games.
Sacramento State scored the game's first 11 points and never trailed the entire way. In fact, the Hornets led by at least nine points the final 34:18 of the contest. During the game's first six and a half minutes, Southern Utah was 0-for-8 from the field with three turnovers. The Thunderbirds did not score their first point of the game until a pair of Eric Rippetoe free throws at the 13:29 mark, and didn't convert their first field goal until a Casey Oliverson layup at the 13:00 mark.
Sacramento State led, 36-20, at halftime and that lead was never threatened in the second half. Southern Utah cut the deficit to nine points (63-54) with 1:08 to play, but McKinney answered with a pair of free throws to put the game away.
Coupled with the Hornets' 77-49 road win at Southern Utah earlier this season, Sacramento State swept the season series from the Thunderbirds, winning both games by an average of 20 points. The Thunderbirds dropped to 1-20 overall and 0-12 in league play, but had lost six straight games by single digits heading into tonight's contest.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting .491 (26-53) from the field, .385 (5-13) from the 3-point line and .647 (11-17) from the free throw line. The Hornets held a large advantage in the rebounding department (38-25) and scored 15 points off 13 Southern Utah turnovers. The Thunderbirds converted on just 8-of-24 from the field in the first half and finished the game at .431 (22-51) from the floor, including 2-of-8 from distance. Jaren Jeffery scored 21 of the Thunderbirds' 56 points. The Hornets did turn the ball over 14 times, their highest number of miscues in the last 12 games.
"It all starts at home, and you have to defend the home court in this conference," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said of the homestand. "I always tell our guys that every win on the road in the Big Sky is an upset, and we play Eastern Washington and Portland State later this week at their places. Nothing will come easy.
"We've been scoring the ball better lately, and our defense has really tightened up in the last month. The one negative tonight was our 14 turnovers, but we played well enough to win."
McKinney led the Hornets in scoring for the fourth straight game, and 12th time this season as his 15 points came on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. During the four-game homestand, McKinney was remarkable, averaging 24.8 points, 5.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals on .603 shooting (35-58) from the field.
Garrity chipped in 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers as the junior has now converted on at least three triples on eight occasions this season. Jordan Salley added nine points, including a thunderous dunk in the second half, Alex Tiffin finished with a season and game-high 10 rebounds, and Cody Demps had nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Zach Mills and Dreon Barlett both had six points and Nick Hornsby had four points and four rebounds in 16 active minutes.
Thirteen Sacramento State players appeared in tonight's game, and 10 cracked into the scoring column.
For Southern Utah, Jeffery's 21 points came on 9-of-11 shooting while Juwan Major chipped in 11 points. Thunderbird starters accounted for just 11 points as the bench outscored the Hornets bench by a 45-22 margin. More than half those points came from Jeffery and Major.
The Hornets, who were playing the first of three games this week, will travel to Eastern Washington on Thursday and Portland State on Saturday. Sacramento State defeated Eastern Washington at home earlier this year and lost to Portland State in overtime.