RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Sacramento State finished the game on a 15-7 run, and senior guard Mikh McKinney had eight of his game-high 22 points during the final 4:42 of the contest as the Hornets won at UC Riverside, 70-69, in a non-conference men's basketball game Monday evening at SRC Arena.
The win for the Hornets (1-1) was their first in school history on UC Riverside's home floor (1-6) and allowed Sacramento State to go into its season-high tying three-game homestand on a positive note.
After missing the first game of the season Friday at Gonzaga, McKinney was unbelievable tonight. The senior co-captain practically willed the Hornets to victory, leading the comeback with an array of acrobatic jumpers that have become a big part of McKinney's game. In fact, it was McKinney that scored on three straight possessions between the 4:42 and 3:43 marks, with the last shot tying the score at 66-66 with 3:43 to play. All three buckets were not your average jumper, as McKinney either made some kind of fadeaway, off balance or twisting shot on each of those field goals.
McKinney later added another driving, whirlwind layup with the left hand that drew a large response from the crowd to cut the Riverside lead to 69-68 with 1:15 to play. Then to top that off, it was McKinney who came up with a steal on the Highlanders' next possession to set up the Hornets' game-winning bucket.
On what proved to be Sacramento State's final possession, junior swingman Cody Demps caught a pass from McKinney on the left wing, drove to the right side of the key and buried an eight-foot runner that was well contested. That gave the Hornets a 70-69 lead with 17 seconds to play, which was also Sacramento State's first lead since the 18:25 mark of the second half.
Riverside (1-1) had two looks on their final possession, but contested 3-pointers from both Jaylen Bland and Austin Quick fell off the mark, and guess who....McKinney grabbed the rebound as time expired.
"I'm always determined to win, and will do whatever is necessary to help this team get in the win column," McKinney said. "I made some plays, but this was a team win. Everyone contributed tonight, and we're looking forward to getting back to the Nest and playing in front of our home fans."
Things didn't look good for the Hornets when they trailed by a game-high seven points with 6:05 to play after a 3-pointer from Bland. However, Sacramento State closed the game on a 15-7 run over the final 5:32 to win the game. During the spurt, four different Hornets scored, including McKinney (8), Dylan Garrity (3), Eric Stuteville (2) and Demps (2).
"We have a veteran roster with seasoned guys that have been through the ups and downs of Div. I basketball," Sacramento State seventh-year head coach Brian Katz said. "There is no subsitute for experience and we have (five) guys that have been in the program for at least three years, and that helped tonight.
"Mikh is a competitor and the team feeds off the energy he and Dylan (Garrity) bring as leaders. Down the stretch, it was clear that Mikh was not going to let us lose, and the team really adopted that mentality during the later stages of the game. Cody also made a bigtime shot tonight, and he continues to grow as a player."
Sacramento State opened the game on a 18-9 run spanning the first nine minutes of the contest. However, UC Riverside responded with a 20-11 run before a Zach Mills' jumper at the buzzer gave the Hornets a 31-29 halftime lead.
The Hornets shot .547 (29-53) from the field, including a blistering .640 (16-25) in the second half. They also shot .556 (5-9) from the 3-point line and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Sacramento State turned the ball over just 10 times and both teams had 27 rebounds. The Hornets outscored the Highlander bench, 20-8, in good part because of Mills who finished with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field in 26 minutes. Seven of those points for Mills came in the second half where the senior forward didn't miss from the floor (3-for-3).
UC Riverside shot .446 (25-56) from the field, but just 7-of-24 from the 3-point line. The Highlanders had five blocked shots and six steals.
McKinney's 22 points came on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from the free throw line. The Union City, Calif., native and third-year senior also had four rebounds, four assists and two steals in a game-high 39 minutes. He led or tied for the team lead in points, assists, steals and minutes, and was tied for second on the squad in rebounding.
Joining McKinney in double figures for the Hornets were Mills (15 points, five rebounds and a steal), Stuteville (12 points, four rebounds) and Garrity (11 points, two assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 37 minutes). Demps had five points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes. Four of the Hornets' five starters, including Stuteville's 36 minutes, played at least 32 minutes in tonight's game.
For UC Riverside, Taylor Johns had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, Bland finished with 17 points on just 5-of-14 shooting, and Steven Thornton had 14 points. Thornton had a three-point play with 2:52 remaining to put Riverside up, 69-66. That proved to be the Highlanders' final field goal of the evening.
Sacramento State will wrap up a stretch that sees the team play three times in the first six days of the season when the Hornets host Simpson at home on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. That begins a three-game homestand that will also see the team play Bristol University on Nov. 25 and Utah Valley on Dec. 1.
NOTES -- Each of the last three meetings between the Hornets and Highlanders have been decided by two points or less, including the Hornets' 69-67 win in Sacramento last season…Sacramento State had been 1-17 dating back to last year when trailing with five minutes left in a game. The Hornets trailed tonight, 62-60, at the five-minute mark…today was Coach Katz's birthday.
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