In the team’s first postseason action as a Division I program, Sacramento State men’s basketball beat the University of Portland Pilots 73-66 tonight to advance to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
With the win, the Hornets earned the right to play at least one more home game at the Hornets Nest this season. Sac State will host Big Sky Conference opponent Northern Arizona University on Saturday night in the second phase of the 32-team tournament.
The Hornets survived a blown 13-point lead midway through the second half, but hung on to defeat the Pilots, a team that handed Sac State its only home loss of the season on Dec. 14 during the preconference schedule.
The CIT victory was the Hornets’ 21st win of 2014-15 and marked the first postseason win for Sac State since 1962, when the team defeated Nebraska Wesleyan University in a Final Four matchup of the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship.
Sac State shot 26-of-50 (52.0 percent) from the floor and drained seven of 14 (50.0 percent) 3-pointers in tonight’s game. The Pilots went 23 of 54 (43.0 percent) from the field and made just five of 21 (24.0 percent) from downtown.
Team co-captains and senior guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity were the team’s leading scorers. Garrity posted 17 points, making six of 12 field goal attempts in 33 minutes played. McKinney tallied 16 points on five-of-eight shooting from the floor.
The duo went a combined five-for-eight from 3-point range and six-for-six from the free-throw line.
McKinney, who has averaged 36.9 minutes per game, played just 33 against Portland. He committed three personal fouls in the first half, leading to time spent on the bench, but racked up no fouls in the second period.
Sophomore forward Nick Hornsby added 10 points and three rebounds off the bench. Junior guard Cody Demps led the team with seven rebounds, all coming on defense.
Sac State coach Brian Katz made some changes to the Hornets’ usual starting lineup. Senior Alex Tiffin started in place of normal starting center Eric Stuteville, and senior Zach Mills got the start at forward over Hornsby.
Tiffin ended up fouling out at the 6:53 mark in the second half.
The game started out tight, with neither team leading by more than five points until a Hornsby layup with 1:09 left in the first period gave the Hornets a 36-30 advantage that they took into halftime. The layup capped a 12-1 Sac State run to end the half.
The Hornets pushed their lead to 55-42 with 12:14 remaining in the contest thanks to a Garrity 3-pointer, but saw their cushion quickly erased by a 14-2 Portland run that capitalized on three Sac State turnovers in less than five minutes.
The game sat tied at 66-66 with 1:16 left on the clock. A Garrity 2-point jumper gave the Hornets a 68-66 lead that the Pilots could not overcome, as Portland sealed their defeat by missing a 3-pointer and fumbling the ball out of bounds on back-to-back possessions.
Portland then played the foul game, and the Hornets converted on their final five free throws to earn the 73-66 victory.
Sac State will get its homecoming with a 7 p.m. Saturday tipoff against Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks defeated the Hornets 70-68 in their last matchup, denying Sac State hosting rights for the Big Sky Conference Tournament in the final game of the regular conference season.