SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State sophomore Nick Hornsby scored a career-high 20 points and the Hornets led by at least six points the final 27 minutes on the way to a 65-56 victory over Utah Valley in a non-conference men's basketball game Monday evening at The Nest.
With the victory, the Hornets won their fourth straight game and improved to 4-1, matching the team's best start after five games since the program joined the Div. I ranks in 1991-92. The 1999-00 and 2012-13 squads also began the year by winning four of their first five games. In addition, the four-game winning streak is one shy of the longest winning stretch during the program's Div. I era as the 2005-06 squad won five straight.
Sacramento State is now 3-0 at home this year and 24-7 inside the friendly confines dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season. The Hornets also snapped a three-game losing streak against Utah Valley and beat the Wolverines for the first time since the 2004-05 season. These same two teams will meet again on Dec. 27 in Orem, Utah.
Utah Valley, which won the Western Athletic Conference regular season title and advanced to the NIT last year, dropped to 3-3 with the loss.
The Hornets held a lead for nearly 38 minutes (37:40) of the contest, and Utah Valley's lone advantage came at 2-0 and that lead lasted just 12 seconds. Sacramento State used an 8-0 run during the final two minutes of the first half, punctuated by a Dylan Garrity 25-footer at the buzzer, to take a 39-25 lead into the break.
Sacramento State held at least a three-possession lead a good portion of the second half and pushed that advantage to a game-high 15 points (62-47) with 5:59 to play. At that point, however, the Hornets let Utah Valley back in the game by missing the front end of 1-and-1 free throw situations or turning the ball over on five straight possessions. The Wolverines used that momentum to cut the Hornet lead all the way down to 62-56 with 2:17 to play.
However, a free throw from Hornsby and a driving layup from Mikh McKinney with one minute to play pushed the lead back to nine points (65-56). Neither team would score the rest of the way as the Hornets ran out the clock and Utah Valley elected not to foul after committing a turnover with 45 seconds remaining.
Sacramento State, which improved its field goal percentage to .529 this season, shot .568 (25-44) from the field tonight, including 6-of-15 (.400) from the 3-point line. The Hornets have now shot at least .547 from the floor in four straight games and now sit second in the Big Sky Conference in field goal percentage. The Hornets were able to overcome 10-2 second-chance point and 8-0 fast break point disparities by holding the Wolverines to .396 (21-53) shooting from the floor, including just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.
The Hornets also had a season-high eight blocked shots, including three from Eric Stuteville, and two apiece from Hornsby and Cody Demps. Utah Valley held a 31-30 advantage in the rebounding department. Sacramento State did commit 16 turnovers which turned into 18 Wolverine points.
"We defended well and were solid for the most part, but we need to find a way to fix the turnovers," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "When you shoot the ball well and play good defense, it gives you a good chance to win, and that's what we accomplished tonight."
Hornsby, a true sophomore from Irvine, Calif., scored his 20 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-2 from the 3-point line and 2-for-3 from the free throw line. He also added five rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in 29 minutes. The forward scored 10 points in the first half, and 10 more in the second half. He also had a huge blocked shot on what looked to be an easy fast break layup for Utah Valley with five minutes remaining in the contest.
"To be honest, I didn't realize what kind of night I was having or that I didn't miss a shot," Hornsby said. "Everyone was telling me to do my thing, coaches were after me to be aggressive, and I was just out there playing ball. We still have some things to work on, but the team is playing well right now and hopefully we can keep on getting better."
Hornsby was joined in double figures by McKinney who finished with a well-balanced line of 13 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals in 37 minutes. The assists, steals and minutes were all game highs and the five rebounds tied a team high.
Katz used eight players tonight, and each of those players scored at least five points. That included seven points and three assists from Garrity, who is just two points shy of becoming the 12th player in school history to tally 1,000 career points. Stuteville had five points, five rebounds and three blocks, Demps had five points, four rebounds and two blocks, both Zach Mills and Alex Tiffin had five points and four rebounds, and Dreon Barlett added five points in nine minutes.
For Utah Valley, Mitch Bruneel had a team-best 15 points while Donte Williams chipped in 10 points and Zach Nelson had nine points and nine rebounds.
Tonight ended a season-high tying three-game homestand for the Hornets. It also marked the first of a stretch that will see the team play three times over a six-day span, including road games Thursday at Abilene Christian and Saturday at UC Irvine.
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