Men’s basketball beats Northern Colorado 66-59

State Hornet Staff

In the team’s second-to-last game at the Hornets’ Nest this season, men’s basketball at Sacramento State defeated the University of Northern Colorado Bears on Thursday night by a final of 66-59.

The win put the Hornets’ record at 17-8 overall and 11-3 in Big Sky Conference play. Sac State remains half a game back of the Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2 in Big Sky) and tied with University of Montana (11-3 in Big Sky) in the conference standings with four games left on the schedule for the Hornets.

“I really was proud of our guys, because it certainly wasn’t one of our better games,” said Sac State coach Brian Katz. “They [Northern Colorado] had a lot to do with it. We missed 11 free throws. We’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams and free throw teams in the conference. We couldn’t buy a basket. We couldn’t do anything right, and yet we found a way to win.”

The Hornets struggled from the free-throw line, where they made 18 of 29 (62.1 percent) attempted free throws, and also had trouble from long distance. The team shot a combined four-for-15 (26.7 percent) from behind the arc.

Sac State made just eight of 23 (34.8 percent) field goal attempts in the first half, but ended up shooting 22 of 44 (50.0 percent) for the game. The defense held the Bears to shoot just 25 of 60 (41.7 percent) from the field.

The win put Sac State at a perfect 8-0 at home in conference play. Saturday will mark the Hornets’ final game at The Nest, as Sac State is not eligible to host from its home gym due to its size.

The team’s leading scorer this season, Mikh McKinney, tallied 23 points in Thursday night’s game. The senior made seven of 13 field goal attempts, played the full 40 minutes and scored 17 points in the second half alone.

“It was a slow start,” McKinney said. “We stuck with our game plan. We kept fighting. I mean, that’s one of the big themes, I think, of tonight. The theme of tonight was just staying with it, competing throughout the whole game and at the end we went on a nice little run and came out on top.”

Junior guard Cody Demps also played a big part in the Hornets’ win. Demps scored eight points on two of four shooting from the floor and reeled in 10 rebounds in 36 minutes on the floor.

“It was a tough win, real tough,” Demps said. “Our coach always talks about winning in different circumstances, and this game was one where we kind of played—we started off really bad, we didn’t really play our best game, but we need to win ugly sometimes, and that’s big, definitely in conference.”

Demps added that rebounding will be a key in the Hornets’ success for the team’s remaining games this season.

“The past probably seven or eight games, we haven’t really done well on the boards,” Demps said. “So it was a big emphasis this week to really improve on that in practice and in the game, too.”

The Hornets overcame a slow start in Thursday’s affair, as Northern Colorado jumped to a 17-7 lead by the 11:31 mark in the first half. Sac State mounted a comeback, closing the half on a 22-5 run to secure a 29-22 halftime lead.

The game tightened up midway through the second half, as the score was tied at 44 with 9:24 on the clock and tied again at 51 at the 5:03 mark. An 11-2 run from that point until the 1:35 mark helped lock up the win for Sac State.

In addition to strong showings by McKinney and Demps, senior guard Dylan Garrity scored 12 points, shooting four of nine from the field. Forward Nick Hornsby added eight points, making four of five field goal attempts.

The Hornets will have their senior day on Saturday, hosting University of North Dakota (8-17 overall, 4-10 Big Sky) from The Nest with a chance for Sac State to finish with a perfect 9-0 home record in Big Sky play.

“We’re in a big battle for trying to win this conference,” Katz said. “We can only think about North Dakota. We can’t think about anything else.”

The Hornets will host North Dakota at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.