Garrity buries a clutch 3-pointer to get the 70-69 comeback win against Montana

Mike McGough

Fans swarmed the court at the Hornets Nest Saturday night after Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team pulled off a come-from-behind 70-69 victory over the University of Montana.

The win, which kept the Hornets in first place at 9-1 in Big Sky Conference play, came at the hands of senior Dylan Garrity, whose composure was in full force Saturday.

Garrity, who had made just one of six field goals prior to the Hornets’ final possession, had a wide-open look from behind the arc with Sac State down 69-67 and six seconds left in the game.

He did not waste it.

The guard launched a 3-pointer and the sold-out, overflowing crowd of 1,407 erupted as the ball drained through the hoop.

“When I caught it, I couldn’t believe I was that open, because that was the most open I had been the entire game,” Garrity said. “So it was kind of a shock. I mean, I let it go and it looked good as soon as it left my hand, so I kind of knew.”

Garrity ended the night with 10 points on two-of-seven shooting from the floor in 31 minutes played.

The Hornets were trailing by as many as 13 points, down 59-46 with 9:34 left to play, before grinding down the Grizzlies’ lead to set up Garrity’s dagger.

Sac State coach Brian Katz said the sell-out crowd played a big role in the team’s win.

“There is no question in my mind: the crowd, I think, was the difference tonight,” Katz said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. We’ve never had that kind of loudness or volume. That, you know, creates indecision.”

Katz’s crew extended its winning streak to six games with the victory over Montana, who had beaten Sac State 15 consecutive times prior to Saturday night’s stunner.

The game represented a battle for first place in the Big Sky, as Montana entered the contest with a conference record of 7-1, just a half game behind Sac State in the standings. The Hornets took care of business, as they did in the Jan. 17 home matchup against Eastern Washington, which the Hornets won by a final score of 90-77 to take the top spot in the conference, a spot they have yet to relinquish.

Sac State now stands tall with a record of 15-6 overall and 9-1 in conference.

Garrity’s fellow guards Cody Demps and Mikh McKinney also had big games. Demps made six of eight field goal attempts and McKinney shot five-of-nine. McKinney led both teams with six assists. Each player had 18 points.

“We try to focus on the small details,” Demps said. “We can’t think big picture at that time. We got to focus on the process. And so we just kept chipping it away, taking it one play at a time. Coach always says there’s no 10-point plays.”

Demps has been a crucial cog in Sac State’s machine of success. The junior had a career-high 22 points in the Hornets’ Jan. 17 win over Eastern Washington, and put forth a solid effort again in Saturday’s battle for first place.

Katz said Demps is his go-to guy when McKinney and Garrity are unable to find quality shots.

“He [Demps] plays the point, he plays the off, he plays the small forward, he plays the four,” Katz said. “He’s a matchup nightmare.”

The victory was anything but easy. Katz picked up a technical foul at the 9:34 mark in the second half after a foul call on a 3-point attempt by Jordan Gregory of the Grizzlies, giving Gregory five consecutive free throw attempts. The Montana guard made three of his free throws, giving the Grizzlies their game-high 13-point lead.

Sac State clawed its way back into the game. By the 1:41 mark, the advantage sat at 69-64 Montana.

With 31 seconds remaining and the Hornets trailing 69-67 following two clutch free throws by McKinney, Sac State forward Nick Hornsby forced a turnover at the half-court stripe, giving the Hornets a chance to tie or take the lead with the shot clock off.

At the 19 second mark, McKinney tried for the dagger with a 3-point attempt, but was off the mark. Hornsby immediately fouled forward Mike Weisner of Montana, who stepped up to the line for a one-and-one with 18 seconds left to play.

Weisner missed his front-end and Demps pulled in the defensive rebound. Center Alex Tiffin kicked the ball out to Garrity, who had no defenders surrounding him and nailed the game-winner.

After a final, five-second defensive stand, the Hornets had fans surrounding them on the court as they celebrated their 9-1 start to the conference season.

It was a moment that neither Garrity nor his teammates will forget anytime soon.

“It’s right up there with Weber State,” Garrity said, referring to his 75-foot game-winning shot that gave the Hornets a crucial 78-75 overtime win over Weber on Feb. 1 a season ago. “I don’t know if I can put one in front of the other, given the circumstances. But, I mean, this game is going to keep us in first place and, I mean, obviously that’s huge for our team, and huge for our program, and huge for our university as a whole.”

Sac State will get some rest in the upcoming week, enjoying its first Thursday of 2015 without a game on the schedule. The Hornets’ next contest will be at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 7, as Sac State is set to host Portland State from The Nest.