Hornets Beat Northern Arizona 78-73 in Men’s Basketball Big Sky Opener

State Hornet Staff

Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team celebrated the start of 2015 with a New Year’s Day home victory, defeating the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks by a final of 78-73 on Thursday night.

The game marked the opening of Big Sky Conference play for the Hornets, who won a competitive contest to put the team’s record at 1-0 in the Big Sky and 7-5 overall.

Coach Brian Katz was happy with his team’s ability to prevail in its first conference game of 2014-15.

“I always say when you get into league [conference play], it gets a lot harder,” Katz said. “It really does. Because now everybody knows you. They know your tendencies.”

The Hornets were powered by a monstrous second-half effort from senior guard Dylan Garrity.

Garrity—who posted a career-high 28 points on Saturday—gave an encore performance Thursday night, scoring 23 points in the second half alone. For the game, he made five of nine field goal attempts, five of seven from behind the arc and 11 of 12 free throw attempts. Garrity scored 26 points total and spent 35 minutes on the floor.

“I just take what the defense gives me, and I’ve just been looking to be more aggressive because that’s what the coaches and everyone on the team [have] been pushing me to do,” Garrity said.

Katz expressed the need to reduce some of Garrity’s selflessness on the court.

“His habit is to pass first, but I told him ‘Dylan, we’re not going to win if you don’t shoot open shots,’” Katz said. “We need his perimeter shooting and we need his scoring.”

Eric Stuteville was Sac State’s next highest scorer with 16 points. The sophomore center shot seven of 11 from the field and had five rebounds in 32 minutes played.

Junior guard Cody Demps also turned in a solid effort. Demps shot five of seven from the field, scoring 13 points, and also reeled in a team-high six rebounds in 32 minutes played.

“I thought it was a good game,” Demps said. “I thought we started off on the right foot, which was big. We like to set a tone in the first four minutes, and I think we did that. And it helped carry us throughout the game.”

Demps did, however, foul out with 5:34 left to play in the game. Demps was one of three Hornets to foul out, as Nick Hornsby and Zach Mills joined Demps on the bench with 2:59 and 0:09 remaining, respectively.

“He [Demps] got a little overzealous and it wasn’t time to be overzealous,” Katz said.

The game was a tight one. The Hornets went into halftime up 31-27 and the teams would remain within five points of each other for the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The Hornets started to pull away late, and had a 12-point advantage with 5:31 to play before a 12-2 run by the Lumberjacks cut Sac State’s lead to 70-68. But a deep 3-pointer by senior guard Mikh McKinney with 1:46 to play gave the Hornets a five-point cushion that Northern Arizona could not overcome.

Timely 3-point shooting proved to be of tremendous value to the Hornets, who shot seven-of-eight from long distance in the second half. Four of the seven came off the hands of Garrity.

For the game, the Hornets shot 26 of 51 (51.0 percent) from the field and nine of 13 (69.2 percent) from 3-point range. The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, shot 21 of 49 (42.9 percent) from the field and six of 18 (33.3 percent) from long distance.

While Garrity maintained that the Hornets take the same approach whether their opponent is a Big Sky team or not, Demps pointed out that the familiarity of the opponent adds to the level of competitiveness.

“You know what the team is about, so that makes it a little bit harder,” Demps said.

Garrity—a team co-captain—summed up his thoughts on Thursday night’s victory.

“We made some silly mistakes toward the end, with turnovers and fouls and stuff,” Garrity said. “But we’re a deep group and we’ve got some veteran guys in our locker room.”

The Hornets will be eyeing a 2-0 start in conference play as they return to the Nest at 7:05 p.m. Saturday to face off against Southern Utah.