Men’s basketball continues winning streak

Mike McGough

Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team extended its win streak to four with a 65-56 victory Monday night against the Utah Valley Wolverines.

With the win, the Hornets improved their record to 4-1 on the season and completed a 3-0 opening home stand.

Head coach Brian Katz gave his thoughts on the team’s performance.

“I thought it was really good, other than the turnovers, unforced,” Katz said. “That’s a good team and we really defended them well.”

The Hornets committed 16 turnovers as a team.

Defensively, Sac State held the Wolverines to shoot 39.6 percent from the field. Utah Valley made three of 19 attempts from behind the arc.

Utah Valley fell to a 3-3 record with the loss.

Sophomore forward Nick Hornsby turned in a huge game for the Hornets, scoring 20 points in 29 minutes played. Hornsby went eight-for-eight from the field, two-for-two from 3-point range, and two-for-three from the free-throw line. He also led the team with five rebounds, all on defense.

Entering the game with just 12 points scored in the first four games of the season combined, Hornsby’s 20 points Monday night represented a career high—a fact he was not aware of during the game.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know,” Hornsby said. “My teammates gave me confidence, and my coach as well.”

His coach spoke well of his efforts Monday night.

“He’s a very talented kid, and we thought it would happen,” Katz said. “He’s a guy [who’s] another weapon. Everybody’s going to focus on McKinney and Garrity. Now we’ve got another guy, so that’s good.”

Senior guard Mikh McKinney was the team’s only other player in double-digit scoring. McKinney made six of 11 field goal attempts, good for 13 points in 37 minutes.

McKinney also had six assists and all three of his team’s steals. He did, however, struggle from the free throw line, making just one of four attempts.

The Hornets had some trouble scoring in the second half. In the first half, the team made 15 of 23 field goal attempts, scoring 39 points. After halftime, Sac State produced 26 points on 10 of 21 successful field goals.

Though Sac State showed signs of sloppiness in its ball-handling and free throw shooting in the team’s lowest scoring effort since its season-opening loss to Gonzaga, McKinney was able to find positives on the offensive side.

“When we did execute our plays, they worked for us,” McKinney said. “When we took care of the ball, we showed signs that we could be a very good, executing team.”

One subplot to Monday’s game that did not come to fruition was that of senior Dylan Garrity. Entering the game just nine points shy of 1,000 for his career at Sac State, Garrity scored seven points to finish two shy of the milestone.

Garrity made two of five attempted field goals for the game—both from 3-point range—and committed four turnovers.

If Garrity can pick up those two points on the team’s next road trip, the senior will become the 12th player in school history to crack quadruple digits.

Monday’s game—which the Hornets led by as much as 15 with just six minutes left to play—tightened up near the end. Second-half free throw issues allowed Utah Valley to creep within six points with 2:17 to play, as Sac State made just three of eight free throw tries in the half.

Katz cited turnovers and free throw troubles as the main problems faced by the team early in the season. But these issues have been no source of panic for the coach.

“Those are good problems to deal with right now,” Katz said. “Problems are easy to deal with when you win.”

Despite the ball control and free throw issues, Hornsby and McKinney said they were happy with the outcome.

“Every win is a good win,” McKinney said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on. We turned the ball over a lot. We have to cut that part of our game out. It’s going to hurt us in the future.”

Sac State will face Utah Valley on the road Dec. 27 in a rematch of Monday night’s game.

The rematch will mark Sac State’s final non-conference matchup of the season, and will thus represent an important tune-up as the Hornets prepare to take on Big Sky opponents come January.

“It was nice to get that win,” Hornsby said. “We have to play them again soon, so it’s just nice to get the feel of how they’re going to play.”

McKinney attributed the team’s four-game win streak to strong group efforts in each game.

“If we’re on the court together as a group, then we’re going to give it everything we’ve got,” McKinney said. “And I think that’s why we’re winning games.”

Sac State will hit the road for its next two games. The Hornets will tip off next at 5:05 p.m. Thursday at Abilene Christian University in Texas.