By Bryan Metcalf, SacStateSports.com staff writer
The Sacramento State Hornets needed a win Monday night after suffering back-to-back losses for the second time this season.
A win is what they got, defeating Southern Utah, 64-59, at the Nest in Sacramento.
“We didn’t lose our confidence,” said sophomore point guard Dylan Garrity. “But we wanted to get back on track.”
The Hornets overcame 17 turnovers, 26 missed free throws, and a double-double (24 points, 12 rebounds) by Southern Utah’s Jackson Stevenett.
“This is a game in the past we might have lost,” said head coach Brian Katz. “But I wasn’t worried because our guys are more experienced and more confident.”
Mikh McKinney led the Hornets with 18 points. Konner Veteto had 14 and Garrity added 12.
Veteto and Joe Eberhard led Sacramento State with eight rebounds each.
Damon Heuir recorded 14 points, and Jayson Cheesman had eight rebounds for the Thunderbirds.
Southern Utah entered Monday night’s game 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play, but it was the Hornets that started off as the more dominant team.
Sacramento State (7-5, 2-2 Big Sky) started things off with a 22-6 run the lasted just past the halfway mark of the first period.
“I thought that was a huge difference,” Katz said. “You get them on their heels, your guys are confident and you’re playing well.”
Southern Utah (5-8, 3-1) didn’t get their first basket until almost seven minutes into the game.
Once they got the first, things started to click for the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah outscored the Hornets 20-7 after snapping the Sacramento State run and closed the gap to 29-26 at halftime.
“They made good adjustments to slow us down,” McKinney said. “That’s the thing with conference play. The teams all know each other, so when big runs happen they know what they need to do to turn things around.”
A Stevenett three-pointer tied the game just under two minutes into the second half, but that was as close as the Thunderbirds would get.
Sacramento State held a 54-44 lead with 4:07 to play, but struggled to extend it. The Hornets made just 10 of 24 attempts from the foul line and weren’t allowed a shot from the floor in the closing minutes.
“We were trying to make them,” Veteto said. “It just wasn’t going in.”
Garrity, who missed a career-high five free throws, said it was an “evil ball or evil rim.”
Even McKinney, who had missed just six attempts all year from the charity stripe, wasn’t immune. McKinney hit just 3-of-8 during the closing stretch.
“We have to make those at the end of the game,” McKinney said. “Luckily we were playing good defense during that stretch.”
John Dickson failed to record a single point for the first time in his career. Dickson played just 15 minutes, including only five in the second half.
Katz said it had nothing to do with disciplining Dickson for a technical foul he picked up in the first.
“I thought he was out of sorts,” Katz said. “I tried to get him back in and he picked up the offensive foul. I felt like Cody (Demps) was better for us in this game.”
The Hornets now head on the road for four games. Katz said the way his team kept fighting is a good building block for the season-long road trip.
“I thought we showed a lot of toughness and character and resolve,” Katz said. “In the past we would’ve lost that game, but we have some seasoned guys now. I’m very proud of our guys.”
- The Hornets 55 free throw attempts is a program record. The previous record was 51 set during the 1954-55 season.
- Southern Utah entered the game with a +6.0 rebounding margin per game, but was outrebounded 41-38 by Sacramento State.
- The Hornets wore their gold alternate jerseys for the second time this season. Sacramento State has won both games.
Bryan Metcalf is a staff writer for SacStateSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.