SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Five different Hornets scored during a 17-7 run over the game's final 8:05 as Sacramento State came away with a 61-55 victory over Eastern Washington in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at the Nest.
With the win, Sacramento State (11-10, 6-7) sweeps the season series against Eastern Washington for the first time in school history, has its most overall wins (11) since the 2005-06 season, most Big Sky victories (6) since the 2004-05 season, and most home wins (8) since the 2006-07 season. In fact, with eight games remaining in the regular season, the Hornets are attempting to become the first team during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.) to finish the season with an overall winning percentage above the .500 mark.
In addition, Sacramento State finds itself in a two-way tie for sixth place in the league standings with Northern Arizona, but are just two games back of third place. With seven conference games remaining, the Hornets are attempting to finish as one of the Big Sky's top seven teams and secure a spot in the Big Sky Tournament (March 14-16) for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
As has been the case nearly all season, the Hornets found themselves in yet another nail biter. No team led by more than eight points the entire way, and all but two of Sacramento State's games in conference play have now been decided by single digits.
The Hornets never trailed during the first 28:50 of the contest. That run ended when Eastern Washington buried three-pointers on four straight possessions midway through the second half to take its largest lead of the game at 48-44 with 8:43 remaining. However, the Hornets immediately responded with a 10-0 run, highlighted by a three-point play from and a deep three-pointer from to take a 54-48 lead with 4:15 remaining.
During the Hornets' 10-0 run, Eastern Washington went 0-for-5 from the field, 0-for-2 from the free throw line and turned the ball over one time. After a pair of McKinney free throws gave the Hornets that 54-48 lead, Eastern Washington eventually cut the lead to three points on a Parker Kelly three-pointer with 3:45 remaining, but the Eagles would score just four points the rest of the way. responded with two free throws on the Hornets' next possession, and Garrity added another free throw to give Sacramento State a 57-51 lead with 2:50 left. The Eagles could never again make it a one-possession game as the Hornets sunk 7-of-10 from the free throw line over the game's final 3:24 to help seal the victory.
With the loss, the Eagles dropped to 6-17 overall and 4-9 in the conference. A series that Eastern Washington used to dominate, the Hornets have turned the tables, winning three straight and five of the last seven meetings between the two teams. That includes a 60-53 victory in Cheney earlier this season.
Sacramento State didn't shoot particularly well overall (.400, 18-for-45) and from the three-point line (.278, 5-for-18), but the Hornets did connect on 17 more free throws (.741, 20-for-27) than the Eagles. In addition, Sacramento State outscored EWU in second-chance points (9-2) and fast break points (9-0).
Eastern Washington, which finished the game shooting 42.0 percent (21-50) from the floor, buried 10 three-pointers, but missed six of its final seven attempts from distance. The Hornets, who had been outrebounded badly each of their last three games, held a 33-30 advantage on the glass and did not allow a second chance point the entire second half.
Three Sacramento State players finished in double figures, led by Garrity who posted game highs in points (15) and assists (6). He shot 4-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. chipped in with 13 points and five rebounds, and had 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Demps, who continues to see his minutes rise each game, finished with eight points and a team-best six rebounds in 22 minutes. The true freshman has now scored at least seven points in three of his last five games after doing so just once during the team's first 16 games of the season. added six points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. McKinney, who had scored at least 12 points in four straight games, was limited to just five points.
For Eastern Washington, Collin Chiverton had 12 points, Kevin Winford added 11 points and five assists, and Thomas Reuter tallied nine points, five assists and two steals. The Eagles finished the game 3-for-8 from the free throw line and were limited to just one free throw make during the entire second half.
Sacramento State will conclude its season-long three-game homestand on Saturday night against Portland State at 7:05 p.m. The team will hold its annual set of Alumni Games that day at 2 p.m. (1980's and earlier vs. 1990's), and 3 p.m. (2000-06 vs. 2006-12). Both games will be held in the Nest, and admission is free.