Men’s basketball defeats Southern Utah 90-75, starting season 2-0 in Big Sky

Mike McGough

Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team defeated Southern Utah by a final of 90-75 Saturday night to improve to 2-0 in the Big Sky Conference and 8-5 overall on the season.

Five Hornets finished with double-digit point totals, and the team committed just three turnovers as it ran its winning streak up to three games.

Coach Brian Katz felt that his players executed well—particularly on offense—in Saturday night’s game.

“It was a great win,” Katz said. “Hard fought. We certainly had to take some punches from them. We regrouped, did our job and found a way to win.”

Sac State shot 38 of 62 (61.3 percent) from the field compared to Southern Utah’s 27 of 59 (45.8 percent) mark and out-rebounded Southern Utah 35 to 24 in a game in which the Hornets never trailed.

A flagrant foul call against Sac State center Eric Stuteville early in the second half led to an early departure. After spending several minutes reviewing the video replay of a hard collision, Saturday night’s officiating crew ruled to eject Stuteville with 17:55 left in the game.

Stuteville made six of his eight field goal attempts prior to his ejection, tallying 12 points and five blocked shots in 18 minutes played.

While Katz did not comment on the incident itself, he spoke fondly of senior Alex Tiffin’s ability to fill in for Stuteville off the bench.

“We have a lot of confidence in Alex Tiffin,” Katz said. “Eric [Stuteville] has really come into his own, playing well. I thought he played really well tonight. But Alex [Tiffin] started all last year, so he’s a seasoned veteran. There’s no drop-off.”

Tiffin finished the game with six points scored and seven rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor.

Senior guards Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney were instrumental in Saturday night’s win.

McKinney was the top scorer Saturday night with 21 points in just 24 minutes played. He shot eight of 12 from the field, including two of three from 3-point range, and made all three of his free throw attempts.

McKinney took an early exit after committing his fifth foul. He fouled out with 2:25 remaining in the game.

“I think some of us—myself included—have to play a little bit smarter in situations,” McKinney said. “I was out for a while, but our team did well without me in the game.”

Sac State had three players foul out late in its previous game Thursday against Northern Arizona.

Coming off of back-to-back games scoring 20 or more points, Garrity scored 18 points Saturday night. He made seven of 12 shots from the field, had six defensive rebounds and finished with nine assists. Garrity played a team-high 35 minutes.

“It was a good team win,” Garrity said. “Everybody contributed. We had some things that didn’t go our way exactly, with the technical, and Mikh [McKinney] fouled out at the end. But we stuck together as a group, and the next person up in line [was] ready to go.”

A halftime lead of 52-37 marked Sac State’s biggest point total in a half since Nov. 25, when the team dropped 55 points on Bristol University in the second half of a pre-conference matchup.

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds managed to cut their deficit down to as few as six points with 9:50 remaining in the game thanks to an 11-4 run, but ultimately could not mount a comeback. Southern Utah fell to 3-10 on the season and 0-2 in the Big Sky.

“Starting off 2-0, we’re in first place, [and] we’re obviously happy with that,” Garrity said. “Now we’ve just got to look to keep ourselves there.”

Though they have lowered a high turnover rate that plagued them in pre-conference play, the Hornets know there is still work to be done if they want to continue to succeed in the Big Sky. Garrity, McKinney and Katz all mentioned that the team could have played better defense Saturday night.

The Hornets will take their first Big Sky road trip next week. Sac State will look to push its winning streak to four in a row as they tip off at 5:05 p.m. Thursday against North Dakota.