Garrity leads Hornets past Utah Valley

Mike McGough

In its final non-conference game of the season, Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team defeated the Utah Valley Wolverines by a final of 74-49 on Saturday night.  

The win improved the Hornets’ record to 6-5 for the pre-conference portion of their schedule, and gave Sac State its second road win of the season.

Sac State head coach Brian Katz emphasized the importance of road success for a team that won just three road games all of last season.

“We’ve been all over our guys, telling them we’ve got to win road games,” Katz said. “If you start winning on the road, that’s a great season.”

Katz added that the playing level, gym and travel associated with Saturday night’s opponents are all comparable to those associated with Sac State’s Big Sky Conference opponents.

Sac State’s 25-point margin of victory served as a confidence boost for the team heading into conference play.

“This is a team that had traditionally been very, very hard to beat here,” Katz said of Utah Valley University. “And to win, and not only win but win very handily, was quite a surprise.”

Sac State struggled early, as untimely turnovers led to the team trailing by as many as 10 points midway through the first half.

But the Hornets tightened up, committing just four turnovers in the second half compared to nine in the first half. Shooting was not an issue, as Sac State shot 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) from the field in the first half and 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) in the second half.

Sac State went into halftime up 38-32, and outscored Utah Valley by a 36-17 margin in the second half.

Saturday night’s game was a rematch of a Dec. 1 contest held at the Nest, in which the Hornets defeated the Wolverines by a final of 65-56. In that game, the Hornets never trailed by more than two points.

Senior guard Dylan Garrity was the Hornets’ biggest contributor on offense Saturday night.

The team co-captain scored a career-high 28 points, shooting eight-of-nine from the field and six-of-seven from 3-point range. He also made all six of his free throw attempts and had three defensive rebounds, and accomplished all of this in 32 minutes on the floor.

Garrity’s 28 points marked a career high, and his performance was the most prolific scoring effort by a Hornet this season since senior Mikh McKinney’s dominant 32-point game in an 80-75 loss to Portland on Dec. 14.

Katz had mentioned earlier in the season that Garrity might have been in a small shooting slump; The senior scored just seven points in the Dec. 1 matchup against the Wolverines. In the rematch, Garrity made it clear his slump was over.

“I don’t ever worry about Dylan [Garrity] or Mikh [McKinney] too much,” Katz said. “They’re just too seasoned, too good and too smart to be down for very long.”

McKinney had a solid game on both ends of the court Saturday night. He made five of 12 field goal attempts en route to scoring 13 points and also reeled in six rebounds, five of them on defense. McKinney—who played a team-high 35 minutes—also led both teams with eight assists.

Junior guard Dreon Barlett also contributed to Sac State’s victory. Coming in off the bench, Barlett went a perfect three-for-three from the field, scored eight points and had five defensive rebounds in 16 minutes played.

The Hornets produced a 16-2 run during the final six minutes of the first half Saturday night. Garrity scored seven of his team’s 16 points during that run.

Katz mentioned offensive execution and strong second-half defense as the main factors contributing to the victory. The Wolverines made just five of 25 (20 percent) of their field goal attempts and none of their 14 attempted 3-pointers in the second half.

Thanks largely to Garrity’s hot shooting night, the Hornets went 10 of 17 (58.8 percent) from behind the arc in the victory.

Katz felt Saturday night’s win was good preparation for the beginning of conference play.

“I think that game certainly helped us,” Katz said.

The Hornets will play their next game in 2015, with Big Sky Conference play beginning at home on New Year’s Day. Sac State will host Northern Arizona at 7:05 p.m. on Jan. 1.