Men’s basketball falls to the University of Idaho, 69-58

Mike McGough

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team suffered a road loss to the University of Idaho Vandals Saturday night by a final score of 69-58.

The loss dropped the Hornets’ record to 16-8 overall and 10-3 in the Big Sky. With the conference-leading Eastern Washington University (10-2 in Big Sky) also taking a loss Saturday, Sac State remains a half-game out of first place in the standings.

Despite winning the turnover battle and managing to hold the Vandals scoreless for a period of more than six minutes, the Hornets fell by a double-digit margin to Idaho—a team they defeated at the Hornets Nest by a 79-76 score on Jan. 15.

The Vandals made 27 of 48 (56.3 percent) field goal attempts while holding Sac State to shooting 23 of 56 (41.1 percent) from the floor. The Vandals also outrebounded the Hornets by a margin of 38 to 22.

“They slaughtered us on the boards, 38-22,” said Sac State coach Brian Katz. “So really, I thought that was the difference in the game.”

Idaho did struggle with free throws, making just 11 of 20 (55 percent) for the game. Sac State, meanwhile, made seven of eight from the free-throw line, but shot just five of 23 (21.7 percent) from 3-point range.

The Hornets received double-digit scoring efforts from guards Cody Demps, Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity, as well as sophomore forward Nick Hornsby.

Hornsby scored 10 points, making four of eight shots from the field. The sophomore also tallied four rebounds, four steals and three assists in 25 minutes played.

“I like the way Nick Hornsby played tonight,” Katz said. “I thought he was very aggressive, I thought he made some nice plays, I thought he was ready to score. He had a nice, well-rounded game.”

McKinney scored 15 points, making six of 15 attempted field goals with a team-high five assists in 39 minutes played. Garrity also scored 15 points on five of 13 shooting from the floor in 36 minutes. The two combined to shoot 20 3-pointers, making just five of them.

Demps scored 12 points for the Hornets. The junior made six of his nine field goal attempts and reeled in four rebounds, spending 35 minutes on the floor.

Idaho led the entire first half of the game, taking a 24-13 lead by the 9:47 mark in the first period. Sac State managed to cut that lead down to a single point with 43 seconds left in the first half, but a 3-pointer by Idaho forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan gave the Vandals a 37-33 halftime advantage.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Idaho built back another 11-point cushion, leading 48-37 with exactly 15 minutes left to play.

At that point, Sac State tightened up on defense, forcing turnovers and embarking on a 14-0 run. The Hornets’ defense handed Idaho a scoring drought that lasted until the 8:10 mark in the second half.

But Sac State was unable to finish off the comeback.

“I thought right at the breaking point, we had a couple critical issues,” Katz said. “I think it was 48-all, I remember, and we had the ball, and we executed a play and actually made a turnover, and I thought that kind of swung the momentum the other direction.”

Though the Hornets went on to take a 51-48 lead on a Garrity 3-pointer at the 8:28 mark, the momentum shifted to Idaho– mentioned by Katz. After the score was tied at 55-55 at the 4:06 mark, the Vandals ended the game on a 14-3 run to lock up the 69-58 victory, improving their conference record to 6-6.

Katz spoke on the fine-tuning that will be necessary for the Hornets as they approach their final two home games of the season.

“We’ve got to regroup,” Katz said. “It’s time to adjust, readjust. Meaning, we’ve got to fix the minor problems and minor issues [like] offensive execution, rebounding. We’ve got to fix those up. They’re not broke by any stretch, but they need to be tweaked and addressed. We’ll do that and we’ll get better.”

Sac State (10-3 in Big Sky) will tip off next at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at The Nest, where they will host the University of Northern Colorado Bears (7-6 in Big Sky).