Men’s basketball beats Portland State 64-60 for seventh straight win

Sacramento State senior Dylan Garrity drives past Portland State senior Gary Winston during the second half of the basketball game between Sac State and Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Garrity scored 16 points in Saturdays game.

Sacramento State senior Dylan Garrity drives past Portland State senior Gary Winston during the second half of the basketball game between Sac State and Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Garrity scored 16 points in Saturday’s game.

Mike McGough

Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team defeated the Portland State Vikings Saturday afternoon by a final of 64-60 after dropping a 14-point lead built in the first half.

Placing the Hornets at 16-6 overall for the 2014-15 campaign, the victory guaranteed a winning season for the Hornets for the first time in Sac State’s Division I era, which began in 1991.

Despite the win, Sac State coach Brian Katz felt that his team struggled.

“We didn’t make it easy,” Katz said. “We kind of screwed things up tonight. Missed free throws—normally [we’re] a pretty good free throw shooting team. Not tonight.”

The Hornets made eight of 15 (53.3 percent) free throw attempts for the game. The team has made 73.4 percent of its free throws this season.

Nonetheless, Sac State left the Hornets Nest with a victory, maintaining first-place status in the Big Sky Conference with a 10-1 record in conference play.

Team leaders Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney did the bulk of the scoring for the Hornets, who made 25 of 52 (48.1 percent) from the floor as a team Saturday afternoon.

Coming off a thriller in which he had the winning shot, Garrity scored 16 points in Saturday’s game, with 14 coming in the first half alone. The senior shot six of 11 from the field, including two of three from behind the arc, in 30 minutes played. He also contributed three of his team’s 12 steals.

McKinney, meanwhile, shot seven of 13 from the floor, scoring 17 points in just under 40 minutes played. The guard had four steals but also turned the ball over four times.

Sac State established a 29-15 lead by the 4:27 mark in the first half and entered halftime with a 33-24 advantage. But the Vikings stormed out of the gate in the second half, mounting a 14-2 run to take a 38-35 lead with 15:55 left in the game.

The contest tightened up at that point, with neither team taking more than a four-point lead until the 3:51 mark, when McKinney buried a deep 3-pointer to give the Hornets a 59-53 edge.

The senior said the team still has room for improvement in every area.

“We got three main goals, and, I mean, that’s just to get better every day in practice, win the next game,” McKinney said. “And then, if we do number one and number two, then we’re going to have fun as a team. And those are our three goals. And if we’re, you know, getting complacent, then we’re not doing ourselves any good.”

While Katz attributed the Hornets’ struggles to “rust” from Thursday’s lack of a game, Garrity had a different theory.

“I thought the 2 o’clock thing was a little bit weird,” Garrity said. “I wasn’t really used to that. It was kind of weird waking up early this morning, and then not getting the proper nap.”

Saturday marked Sac State’s first afternoon game of the year, tipping off at 2:05 p.m. The Hornets’ final game of the Big Sky regular season at Northern Arizona University is also slated for a 2:05 p.m. start.

The Vikings committed 17 turnovers to Sac State’s 12, but outrebounded the Hornets by a 36-28 margin.

“We got our ass kicked on the boards,” Garrity said. “So that’s something that we’re going to get hammered on in practice and we’re definitely going to focus on something like that.”

The Vikings cut their deficit back down to two points with 31 seconds on the clock, and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead on a potential final possession. Iziahiah Sweeney of Portland State made an errant pass, turning the ball back over to Sac State with 17 seconds remaining.

Garrity was fouled immediately and made both free throws, sealing the 64-60 victory.

The win—which gave the Hornets a seven-game winning streak, another Division I era record—also helped Sac State clinch its first winning Big Sky season in a decade. In the 2004-05 season, Sac State went 8-6 in Big Sky play under coach Jerome Jenkins.

“We feel like we’re on an upswing,” Katz said. “I just hope it’s a permanent upswing.”

The Hornets maintain sole possession of first place in the Big Sky, but will be tested in their next game.

Sac State (10-1 in Big Sky) will hit the road to take on Eastern Washington University (9-1 in Big Sky) in yet another battle for first place on Thursday. In the most recent contest between the two teams, first place was also at stake, as the Hornets took care of Eastern Washington by a final of 90-77 on Jan. 17 in The Nest.

Sac State will tip off next at 6:05 p.m. Thursday at Eastern Washington.