WINNING STREAK AT THREE AFTER MEN’S HOOPS DISMANTLES NAU, 87-70
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State scored a season-high 87 points, including 26 points from Mikh McKinney and 15 from both Zach Mills and Dreon Barlett on the way to an 87-70 victory over Northern Arizona on Thursday evening at The Nest.
The Hornets' 87 points surpassed their previous season high of 85, set against William Jessup. Sacramento State was proficient from the field (.592, 29-for-49), the 3-point line (.500, 8-for-16) and the free throw line (.724, 21-of-29). The Hornets never trailed the entire way, opening the game on an 11-2 run and never looking back.
Sacramento State (9-11, 5-6) is now 3-0 on its current season-long four-game homestand, and the three-game winning streak is the longest since opening last season with a 3-0 record. In addition, the three-game conference winning streak is the longest since winning four in a row near the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. The Hornets wrap up the homestand against Southern Utah on Monday at 7:05 p.m.
Not only did the Hornets set a season best in points, they also played well defensively, tallying a season-high 11 steals which led to a 32-14 advantage in points off turnovers. Northern Arizona committed 20 turnovers, the most forced by Sacramento State this season.
"We really jumped out of gates aggressively in the first half and forced them to play from behind," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and really starting to believe in themselves. Can we get better? Absolutely. But right now, our guys feel pretty good about themselves, and that's never a bad thing."
Sacramento State opened up a first-half lead as large as 14 points before NAU ripped off a 15-8 run to close the half and trail at halftime, 41-34. The Hornets started the second half strong, using a 15-3 run which included 3-pointers from McKinney and Mills to open up a 19-point lead with 16:04 left.
The Lumberjacks (9-13, 6-5) stormed back, eventually cutting the Hornet lead all the way down to 69-63 with 7:08 to play, but McKinney answered with a 3-pointer and Sacramento State never looked back. The Hornets closed the final 6:29 of the contest on an 18-7 spurt to provide the 17-point margin of victory.
McKinney finished with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists in a game-high 37 minutes. He shot 10-for-16 from the field and 3-for-6 from the 3-point line. Over the last three games, the Union City, Calif., native has gone on an all-out assault of the Big Sky, scoring 28, 30 and 26 points, respectively. The 30 points matched a career high and came against the league's best team in Weber State. During the three-game stretch, McKinney is averaging 28.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting .600 (30-50) from the field, .545 (6-11) from the 3-point line and .818 (18-22) from the free throw line. He is now averaging 16.5 points in conference games, the eighth best mark in the Big Sky.
Barlett's 15 points were easily a career high, surpassing his previous best of eight points. The Pasadena, Calif., native shot 4-for-6 from the field, 2-for-2 from distance and 5-of-6 from the free throw line while also snatching a career-high three steals. Mills' 15 points came on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from the 3-point stripe.
One game after hitting the 75-foot shot heard around the world, Dylan Garrity finished with seven points and season highs in both assists (10) and steals (3). Cody Demps and Jordan Salley both added eight points, and Alex Tiffin had four points and five rebounds.
Northern Arizona, which shot .535 from the field but had just two 3-pointers and the 20 turnovers, was led by Aaseem Dixon's 14 points. Gaellan Bewernick (13) and Quinton Upshur (12) also scored in double figures for the Lumberjacks. Max Jacobsen, who entered the game as NAU's second leading scorer at 13.6 ppg, was held scoreless in just nine minutes of play.
NOTES -- Sacramento State was outrebounded, 26-23, marking the first time the team has won when being outrebounded this season (1-8)…the Hornets committed just 11 turnovers, and have now committed 12 turnovers or less in eight straight games…the two teams combined for 52 fouls and 64 free throw attempts in this evening's game…tonight was Hornet true freshman Eric Stuteville's 19th birthday. He finished with two points and two rebounds in 13 minutes…the Hornets had lost 17 of the last 18 meetings against Northern Arizona prior to tonight.