SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In the biggest game at The Nest in many years, the Sacramento State men's basketball team came through when it mattered most, crushing Montana State, 84-59, and in the process, advancing to the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Entering the day, the Hornets needed to beat Montana State, and see Eastern Washington lose at home to Weber State to qualify for the Big Sky's seven-team postseason tournament. Part one of that scenario went Sacramento State's way when the Wildcats hung on to win at Eastern Washington, 82-78, this afternoon.
That set up part two of the scenario - the Hornets win, and they are in. Lose, and they don't qualify. And Sacramento State came through in a major way, thoroughly dominating Montana State in every facet of the game, holding big advantages over the Bobcats in points off turnovers (25-4), second-chance points (14-7) and fast break points (10-2). In fact, the Hornets led by at least 17 points the final 22:03 of the contest, and set season highs in field goals made (35) and steals (11), and the 84 points were the team's third highest total.
Now, Sacramento State, which improved to 14-15 overall and 10-10 in league, will turn its attention to the Big Sky Tournament for the first time in eight years. The top seven teams in the 11-member league qualify for the postseason event, and this year's tournament will be played at Weber State's home floor, the Dee Events Center, in Ogden, Utah.
The seeds for the tournament go as follows: No. 1 Weber State, No. 2 North Dakota, No. 3 Northern Arizona, No. 4 Montana, No. 5 Portland State, No. 6 Northern Colorado and No. 7 Sacramento State. Weber State receives a first-round bye in the single-elimination tournament, while the other six seeds will play each other in the quarterfinals. The Hornets will play No. 2 seed North Dakota (15-15, 12-8) on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. pacific time. If Sacramento State wins, they will play tournament host Weber State in the semifinals on Friday at 6 p.m. pacific time.
"We were a little rattled in Thursday's loss (to Montana), and our guys were disappointed in themselves for letting the nerves get to them," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "Defensively, we were very good tonight and we hit the boards hard. Offensively, we struggled a little bit early, but got ourselves going and the ball started moving around nicely.
"This year, the Big Sky has proven that anybody can beat any anybody, and all seven teams in the tournament feel that way. Its wide open."
Wide open is right. Sacramento State has defeated every team in the league at least once except Montana (0-2). That includes the 78-75 overtime victory in which Dylan Garrity hit a 75-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Weber State. In fact, it was that victory that allowed the Hornets to get the tiebreaker over Eastern Washington, which also finished the year 10-10 in league. The Eagles went 0-2 against Weber State while the Hornets went 1-1 against the Wildcats, giving Sacramento State the very important tiebreaker.
Since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, the Hornets have made just four Big Sky Tournament appearances, and all four came in consecutive years, the 2002-03 season through the 2005-06 season. Sacramento State advanced to the semifinals twice (in 2003 and 2006), but have gotten no further.
"A lot of people have doubted us, but one of our team goals was to keep getting better, and that's exactly what we did collectively as a group," junior shooting guard Mikh McKinney said. "We are confident right now, and we feel like we can beat any team in the Big Sky Tournament. In fact, we have wins against five of the teams that qualified. We are excited and ready to go."
In tonight's game, the Hornets shot .493 (35-71) from the field, .381 (8-21) from the 3-point line, and outrebounded the Bobcats, 41-30. The Hornets outscored Montana State, 38-21, in the first half and 46-38 in the second half.
All 14 players on the Sacramento State roster appeared in the game, and the Hornets got double-figure scoring efforts from five of those players. That included McKinney (game-high 19 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and two steals), Cody Demps (career-high 17 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists), Eric Stuteville (12 points on 6-of-9 shooting), Garrity (12 points, four 3-pointers) and true freshman Nick Hornsby (10 points).
Hornsby was all over the floor as his 10 points accompanied eight rebounds, and career highs in both assists (6) and steals (4) in just 22 minutes of play. The three seniors, Salley, Kendell Groom and Joey Quigley, who were honored for their contributions to the program prior to the game, all played well. Salley had six points and 10 rebounds (including five on the offensive glass), Quigley had four points and a dunk, and Groom had a two-handed rip on a fast break with just under two minutes to play.
"We are a family, and this is a group of guys that deserve this opportunity (to play in the Big Sky Tournament)," Salley said. "We work hard every day and grind while doing the little things it takes to win. I love this program, these guys are my brothers, and we can't wait to play again next week."
NOTES -- The Hornets' 10 conference wins are the most since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97…the team has improved its conference record every year of Katz's six-year tenure…the Hornets finish with a conference record of .500 or better for just third time since joining the Big Sky…the Hornets went 11-3 at home this year, the most home wins in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.), and most since the 1988-89 squad posted 11 home victories.
May 23, 2014 HORNET HOOPS GOLF TOURNAMENT SET FOR MONDAY, JUNE 9
April 28, 2014 MEN’S HOOPS TO HOST SEASON WRAPUP/SIGNING PARTY ON MAY 8
March 10, 2014 TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR BIG SKY MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
February 28, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS PLAYS FINAL REGULAR SEASON ROAD GAME SATURDAY AT IDAHO ST.
February 27, 2014 WINNING STREAK SNAPPED, MEN'S BASKETBALL FALLS AT WEBER STATE, 79-67
February 26, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS TRAVELS TO WEBER STATE ON THURSDAY, SEEKS 4TH STRAIGHT WIN
February 24, 2014 VOTE GARRITY’S 75-FOOT SHOT FOR GEICO PLAY OF THE YEAR
February 24, 2014 McKINNEY NAMED BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK FOR A SECOND TIME
February 22, 2014 MEN’S BASKETBALL CONTINUES TO ROLL AFTER CRUSHING NORTHERN COLORADO
February 21, 2014 FREE WHITEOUT SHIRTS TO THE FIRST 500 FANS AT SATURDAY’S HOOPS GAME
February 21, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS 7TH STRAIGHT HOME WIN SATURDAY VS. NORTHERN COLO.
February 19, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS 6TH STRAIGHT HOME WIN THURSDAY VS. NORTH DAKOTA
February 14, 2014 MEN'S BASKETBALL TRAVELS TO PORTLAND STATE ON SATURDAY
February 13, 2014 MEN’S BASKETBALL HAS WINNING STREAK SNAPPED AT EASTERN WASHINGTON
February 12, 2014 WINNERS OF FOUR STRAIGHT, MEN'S HOOPS TRAVELS TO EASTERN WASHINGTON
February 10, 2014 MEN’S HOOPS BEATS SOUTHERN UTAH, COMPLETES HOMESTAND WITH 4-0 RECORD
February 9, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS 4TH STRAIGHT WIN, HOSTS SOUTHERN UTAH ON MONDAY
February 6, 2014 WINNING STREAK AT THREE AFTER MEN’S HOOPS DISMANTLES NAU, 87-70
February 5, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS BACK AT HOME THURSDAY NIGHT VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA
February 3, 2014 McKINNEY NAMED BIG SKY MEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
January 31, 2014 MEN’S BASKETBALL’S SIXTH-ANNUAL ALUMNI GAMES TAKE PLACE SATURDAY
January 31, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS HOST BIG SKY-LEADING WEBER STATE ON SATURDAY NIGHT
January 29, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS OPENS LONG HOMESTAND THURSDAY VS. IDAHO STATE
January 25, 2014 BIG DISPARITIES HURT IN MEN’S HOOPS LOSS AT NORTHERN COLORADO
January 24, 2014 ROAD WEARY MEN'S HOOPS PLAYS AT NORTHERN COLORADO ON SATURDAY
January 23, 2014 NORTH DAKOTA USES LATE RUN TO BEAT MEN’S BASKETBALL
January 21, 2014 MEN'S BASKETBALL BACK ON THE ROAD THURSDAY AT NORTH DAKOTA
January 18, 2014 MEN’S BASKETBALL KNOCKS OFF EASTERN WASHINGTON AT HOME, 75-64
January 17, 2014 MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS EASTERN WASHINGTON ON SATURDAY NIGHT
January 15, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS FINALLY RETURNS HOME, HOSTS PORTLAND STATE ON THURSDAY
January 11, 2014 MEN’S HOOPS CRUSHES SOUTHERN UTAH, ENDS ROAD TRIP IN A BIG WAY
January 10, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS ROAD TRIP COMES TO AN END SATURDAY AT SOUTHERN UTAH
January 8, 2014 MEN'S HOOPS CONTINUES ROAD TRIP THURSDAY AT NORTHERN ARIZONA
January 2, 2014 MEN’S BASKETBALL DROPS BIG SKY OPENER AT MONTANA STATE
December 31, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS BIG SKY PLAY THURSDAY AT MONTANA STATE
December 29, 2013 LATE FREE THROWS HELP DELIVER 69-67 MEN’S HOOPS WIN OVER UC RIVERSIDE
December 27, 2013 AFTER LONG LAYOFF, MEN'S HOOPS HOSTS UC RIVERSIDE SUNDAY AFTERNOON
December 21, 2013 BIG SECOND HALF FUELS CAL STATE FULLERTON TO VICTORY OVER MEN’S HOOPS
December 19, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYS AT CAL STATE FULLERTON ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON
December 14, 2013 MEN’S HOOPS CRUISES TO 85-54 WIN OVER WILLIAM JESSUP
December 12, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS WILLIAM JESSUP ON SATURDAY AT 7 P.M.
December 7, 2013 UTEP USES HEALTHY FREE THROW ADVANTAGE TO BEAT MEN’S BASKETBALL
December 4, 2013 MEN'S HOOPS TRAVELS TO EL PASO FOR FIRST EVER MEETING WITH UTEP
November 30, 2013 UC IRVINE USES BIG SECOND HALF TO DEFEAT MEN’S BASKETBALL
November 29, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS UC IRVINE SATURDAY NIGHT AT 7 P.M.
November 26, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL COMES THROUGH WITH CLUTCH WIN AT UC DAVIS, 73-67
November 25, 2013 MEN'S HOOPS AND UC DAVIS TO PLAY FOR THE 112TH TIME ON TUESDAY
November 18, 2013 MEN’S BASKETBALL FALLS TO #22 UCLA
November 15, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL TRAVELS TO #24 UCLA ON MONDAY
November 13, 2013 MEN’S BASKETBALL SIGNS MIRA COSTA HIGH SCHOOL FORWARD JUSTIN STRINGS
November 13, 2013 BAKERSFIELD HOT FROM DISTANCE IN 74-66 WIN OVER MEN’S BASKETBALL
November 12, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL BEGINS ROAD TRIP WEDNESDAY AT CSU BAKERSFIELD
November 8, 2013 MEN’S BASKETBALL BEATS UC SANTA CRUZ, 73-43, IN SEASON OPENER
November 6, 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL GETS UNDERWAY FRIDAY NIGHT VS. UC SANTA CRUZ
November 5, 2013 2013-14 MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA GUIDE NOW AVAILABLE
October 28, 2013 2013-14 MEN'S BASKETBALL SEASON OUTLOOK
October 17, 2013 BIG SKY MEN’S BASKETBALL COACHES AND MEDIA PRESEASON POLLS RELEASED
September 24, 2013 MEN’S BASKETBALL SEASON COMING FAST, FIRST OFFICIAL PRACTICE ON FRIDAY
July 23, 2013 MEN’S BASKETBALL RELEASES ITS 2013-14 SCHEDULE