Sacramento State holds on despite giving up big lead

State Hornet Staff

No matter the gap, no lead was safe at The Nest Thursday night.

After Sacramento State gained a 25-point halftime lead against Idaho State, the Bengals orchestrated a 25-10 second half run over a seven-minute span to bring the game within five points. 

The Hornets escaped with an 84-78 win and improve their record to 7-11 (3-6).

“We haven’t been ahead like that for awhile,” said Sac State head coach Brian Katz. “I think our guys just got too conservative.”

Sac State jumped out early to a 21-9 lead in the first half with outside shooting that stymied the Bengals’ defense. The Hornets made 69 percent of their shots in the first half that included 8-10 from 3-point range.

Junior guard Dylan Garrity contributed 14 first-half points. He finished with a career-high 23 points and four assists. 

“I just got to my spots and my teammates found me open,” Garrity said. 

The Hornets continued to extend their lead as much as 27 points when junior guard Mikh McKinney hit a three-pointer from the wing and was fouled. His four-point play was the first the team had since last season. 

In the second half, Idaho State started hitting its 3-pointers and played a variety of aggressive zone defenses that started their run.

“We just wanted to be calm and stay confident,” Garrity said. “We wanted to spread out the defense and looked for open areas to be aggressive.”

Katz said it really affected his team after sophomore Cody Demps was forced to sit when he picked up his third and fourth fouls midway through the second half.  

“It really hurt, because Cody was that guy to get in the middle of their zone [defense],” Katz said. “We had to move Zach Mills to that position and I thought he was conservative and he hasn’t played there a lot.” 

Despite Demps being out with four fouls and Mills playing conservatively, McKinney kept attacking and finished with a game-high 28 points.

“When they started trapping, that was the best time for me to be aggressive,” McKinney said. 

This was the 12th game that Sac State was outscored on in the second half and the 52 second-half points were the most the Hornets gave up this season. They gave up 50 against UCLA on Nov. 18.

The Bengals came within five points when junior guard Andre Hatchett made a layup as he was fouled with 1:28 left in the game.

The Hornets never let Idaho State get any closer as they hit nine out of their last 10 free throws to receive their third Big Sky Conference win of the season.

“The best part was we had a 27-point lead and we didn’t lose,” Katz said. “Basketball is a game of runs and the advantage goes to the most aggressive team.”

Sac State continues its home stand for the next three games and play seven out of their last 11 games at The Nest.

Ryan can be reached on Twitter at @rskuhn