Men’s basketball season ends with 78-73 loss to Northern Arizona

State Hornet Staff

A record-breaking season came to an end for Sacramento State men’s basketball on March 21 at the Hornets Nest as the team was eliminated from the Postseason Tournament with a 78-73 loss to Northern Arizona University.

Sac State blew a 14-point, second-half lead as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks shot an astounding 18-for-23 (78.3 percent) from the field in the second period, scoring 48 points in the process.

“We were up 14 and [Northern Arizona] could have gone home; they didn’t do it,” said Sac State coach Brian Katz. “So give them credit, I was pretty impressed with the way they hung in there.”

With the loss, Sac State finished the 2014-15 campaign with an overall record of 21-12, achieving the highest win total in the program’s Division I history.

The team finished third in the Big Sky Conference standings with a regular season mark of 13-5, also a Sac State record in Division I play, before falling 91-83 to Eastern Washington University in the league tournament’s semifinal round.

Following elimination from the Big Sky Conference Tournament, the Hornets received an invitation to the CIT. They defeated the University of Portland on March 18 to earn a second-round matchup with NAU, which marked the first postseason contest Sac State has hosted as a Division I program.

The defeat was just the second home loss of the season for the Hornets, who went 13-2 at The Nest.

The Hornets shot 27-of-58 (46.6 percent) from the field in the game, but it was not enough to overcome the offense of the Lumberjacks, who went 29-for-53 (54.7 percent) from the floor.

Sac State was outrebounded by a 31-28 margin in the contest. This marked a vast improvement over the previous meeting between the teams, in which Northern Arizona outrebounded the Hornets 43-17 en route to a 70-68 NAU victory that ended Sac State’s chance to take first place in the conference regular season.

Senior guards and co-captains Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity led the Hornets in scoring with 18 points apiece.

McKinney scored his 18 on seven-of-21 shooting from the floor, making just two of 10 attempts from long distance.

“When you play a team twice, and then you see them again for a third time, it’s pretty much just a grind,” McKinney said. “And we fought our hardest, and we just didn’t get the job done.”

With 2014-15 marking his final year with the team, McKinney earned the Big Sky Conference’s Most Valuable Player award at the end of the regular season. He averaged 19.7 points per conference game, which was second in the Big Sky behind Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey, who led the nation in scoring with 23.1 points per game in 2014-15.

In the loss to the Lumberjacks, Garrity shot six for 11 from the floor and made three-of-five attempted 3-pointers. The guard played 33 minutes.

Records and accolades surrounded Garrity and McKinney throughout the season, as the duo climbed through the Sac State record books for scoring and assists. McKinney and Garrity ended their career with respective point totals of 1,468 and 1,406, etching their names in fourth and sixth place on the list of the university’s all-time scoring leaders.

Garrity ended his career as the Hornets’ all-time leader in assists with 527 and games started with 116.

For Sac State’s four seniors—Garrity, McKinney, Alex Tiffin and Zach Mills—the loss to NAU represented the end not just of a season, but of a career.

“It really sucks to end your career on this kind of note, in front of your home fans, but our crowd has been awesome, the city of Sacramento has been awesome,” Garrity said. “The university has been behind our team all year long.”

The season ended with McKinney missing a half-court shot at the buzzer with the Hornets already down by five points.

“We didn’t get the job done, but I mean, to go out and just see the fans and be able to play at home one last time, that was a great opportunity,” McKinney said.

Katz, who has seen his team increase its conference win total in each of his seven years as coach at Sac State, received Co-Big Sky Conference men’s basketball Coach of the Year honors at the end of the regular season, splitting the title with Eastern Washington’s Jim Hayford. Katz attributed the award to the talent of his players.

“This is probably the experience of a lifetime for them,” Katz said of the season as a whole. “You’re talking eight months, from July 13 on,… it’s just hard to put into words what a complete and total commitment you have to have at this level.”