SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State's
In a game that saw the Hornets jump out to a 12-0 lead and never trail the entire way, there were some tense moments near the end of the contest as Sacramento State uncharacteristically had trouble from the free throw line. In fact, it looked like the Hornets would cruise to a double-digit points win as the team held 12-point leads with 4:19 remaining, and later with 1:44 left.
Southern Utah started fouling on every Hornet possession beginning at the 3:19 mark of the second half. Over that final 3:19, the Hornets went 10-for-24 from the free throw line, allowing the Thunderbirds to claw all the way back to within four points of the lead with eight seconds left, but could never get it to a one-possession game.
Sacramento State entered the game ranked fourth in the Big Sky with a respectable .729 free throw percentage, but finished tonight's game shooting a season-low 52.7 percent (29-55) from the free throw line. The Hornets attempted 37 free throws in the second half, and the 55 total free throw attempts are easily a school record, surpassing the previous mark of 51, set against Nevada during the 1954-55 season.
Still, the Hornets picked up a big victory that helped the team improve to 7-5 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Sacramento State's 7-5 record is the program's best after 12 games since the 2005-06 squad began the year at 8-4. In addition, Sacramento State improved to 5-2 at home, and 2-0 when wearing its gold jerseys.
Southern Utah, which had been undefeated in conference play and was coming off a road win at Northern Arizona on Saturday, dropped to 5-8 overall and 3-1 in the Big Sky.
The Hornets limited the Thunderbirds to 32.2 percent (19-59) shooting from the field and 27.3 percent (6-22) from the three-point line. Sacramento State also outrebounded the Thunderbirds by a 41-38 margin and has now outrebounded all four Big Sky opponents thus far.
After trailing, 12-0 to start the game, and eventually 22-6 midway through the first half, Southern Utah eventually worked its way back to within one point (41-40) of the Hornet lead with 9:32 to play. However, Sacramento State went on an 11-0 run during the next 4:11 to take a 52-40 lead with 5:20 remaining in the contest. Veteto scored eight of his 14 points during the run.
Sacramento State finished the game shooting 41.0 percent (16-39) from the field and 60.0 percent (3-5) from the three-point line. That included a second half where the team went 8-of-15 (.533) from the field.
McKinney's 18 points came on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 7-of-14 from the free three throw line. McKinney entered the game as an 87 percent free throw shooter. Still, the sophomore shooting guard is now averaging a team-best 14.8 points during conference play.
Veteto had 14 points and eight rebounds, and has now grabbed at least eight rebounds in five straight games. In addition, the Hornets improved to 9-2 when Veteto scores at least 14 points during his two-year career in the Green and Gold. Garrity had 12 points and six assists in 36 minutes, finished with seven points and eight rebounds, added six points and five rebounds, and had five points, two rebounds and a blocked shot. McKinney led all players with three steals.
For Southern Utah, Jackson Stevenett had game highs in both points (24) and rebounds (12) while Damon Heuir had 14 points in 38 minutes. Only five Thunderbirds scored in tonight's game, comprised of Stevenett, Heuir, Jayson Cheesman (9), Wade Collie (8) and Jordan Johnson (4).
The Hornets return to action for two road games later this week against both Portland State on Thursday and Eastern Washington on Saturday. Thursday's game will begin at 7:35 p.m (18), (14) and (12) combined for 44 points to help lead the Hornets to a 64-59 win over Southern Utah in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Monday evening at the Nest.