Men’s basketball scores big in season opener

Joe Davis

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team started the season off with a bang after a 34-point lopsided victory over UC Merced tonight.

The Hornets ran away with the game in the second-half and cruised to a 96-62 win in their regular season home opener.

Sac State came out flat to start the game. The Hornets even trailed at 23-26 before turning up the pressure.

“We want to be the most aggressive team from start to finish and I don’t think we were,” said head coach Brian Katz. “I think (Merced was more aggressive) and it really set a tone. I was disappointed with our start.”

Eventually the Hornets would pick up the pace with a swarming defense to force six first-half turnovers, which were turned into nine points. Sac State was ahead at halftime 43-35.

Ohlone Junior College transfer guard Mikh McKinney shined in the first-half with 11 points. He displayed quickness to the hoop, which made it tough for the Merced defense to contain him.

“I feel like my role on the team is to attack the defense when I can,” McKinney said. “I use my quickness to my advantage. Once the defense starts to respond to my driving it opens up things (to) everyone else.”

McKinney finished the game with 13 points and three assists.

To start the second half the Hornets went on an 11-3 run, which gave them a 54-38 lead with 15:31 left in the game.

The big second-half push came on the backs of two senior forwards. John Dickson and Konner Veteto gave the defense fits all night.

Veteto showed up the defenders by pulling down seven offensive rebounds. He shot over 50 percent from the field and finished with 17 points – 10 of which came in the second-half.

Dickson did not care where he scored from. When asked how defenses might be able to stop him he replied, “They can’t.”

Dickson had his inside, outside and transition games going tonight. He tied a career-high with nine rebounds and he made two 3-point field goals on only three attempts. At one point, he flew past the defense on a fast break and threw down a vicious jam on an assist by McKinney.

“We are a running team,” Dickson said. “We have a quick team. (Veteto) is 290 pounds and he is one of the fastest guys on the court. We practice getting out in transition all the time.”

When the Hornets dropped their tempo and were slow on defense, Dickson would be seen giving orders to his teammates on the court.

“We have to come in the game ready to go and I felt like we had to take advantage with our size,” Dickson said. “I had to get my troops going. I’ve been here for four years and I have to be a leader.”

Dickson finished the game with 18 points.

Even with a big win, Katz said he was not completely satisfied with his team’s overall effort. He expects the team to play better as the early season nerves wear off.

The Hornets had five players in double-figures. Junior guard Jackson Carbajal added 11 points and senior guard Joe Eberhard had 12 points. Sophomore Dylan Garrity chipped in 6 points with an even more impressive nine assists and only one turnover.

“I don’t really takeaway much from this win,” Dickson said. “I like the way we responded (when we were down), but I didn’t learn much besides we need to stop teams. I don’t worry about scoring because I know we will score. We need to stop other teams from scoring more than 50 points.”

With a good start to the season, Sac State will try to keep it rolling against CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday. The game will be hosted by the Hornets at The Nest. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m.

Joe Davis can be reached at [email protected]