McKINNEY’S LATE FLOATER DELIVERS A 63-61 ROAD WIN AT NORTH DAKOTA

McKINNEY’S LATE FLOATER DELIVERS A 63-61 ROAD WIN AT NORTH DAKOTA

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Senior guard Mikh McKinney buried a tough floater with 2.6 seconds remaining to deliver Sacramento State a 63-61 road win at North Dakota in a Big Sky Conference matchup Thursday evening at the Sioux Center.

The victory improved Sacramento State's record to 9-5 overall and 3-0 in the Big Sky, and both those marks are the best for the program since the 2005-06 season. In addition, the Hornets have now won four straight games, beat North Dakota in Grand Forks for the first time in school history, and are 3-0 in conference for just the second time since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97. Sacramento State had been 0-3 when playing on North Dakota's home floor prior to tonight's win.

After trailing, 58-54, with a little under four minutes to play, the Hornets were able to close on a 9-3 run spanning the game's final 3:25. Junior Cody Demps connected on field goals to tie the game at 59-59 (2:08 left) and 61-61 (1:08 left). After a tough runner from Demps tied the score at 61-61, North Dakota got the ball inside to Jaron Nash on its next possession, but his heavily contested shot fell off the mark and the Hornets' Zach Mills grabbed the rebound with 33 seconds to play.

Sacramento State then dribbled up the court and head coach Brian Katz eventually called a timeout with 22 seconds remaining. After the timeout, McKinney took the inbounds pass, and waited a bit before he made his move with about six seconds remaining. The third-year senior and team co-captain dribbled to the right side of the lane, used a pump fake to draw one defender in the air, ducked in and softly threw up a seven-footer over outstretched UND hands that hit high off the backboard and gently fell in the bucket.

North Dakota immediately inbounded the ball, and Terrel de Rouen's desperation halfcourt heave drew backboard, but no iron as time expired.

In a game which featured nine ties and six lead changes, neither team led by more than eight points the entire way. In fact, North Dakota (5-9, 1-2) jumped out to a 10-2 lead before the Hornets outscored UND, 32-20, over the final 12:24 of the half to take a 34-30 halftime lead. No team led by more than five points the entire second half, as North Dakota's largest advantage of the second half came at 58-54 after Carson Shanks buried a pair of free throws.

Of the Hornets' final nine points, eight were scored by either McKinney (4) or Demps (4). In fact, Sacramento State scored on five of its final six possessions, which included a free throw from Nick Hornsby at the 2:52 mark.

Sacramento State finished the game shooting .500 (24-48) from the floor, .417 (5-12) from the 3-point line and .769 (10-13) from the free throw line. In all four games during the winning streak, Sacramento State has shot at least .500 from the field, .410 from the 3-point line and .765 from the free throw line. In addition, the Hornets, who entered the game ranked 22nd in the nation in field goal percentage, bumped their season mark to a robust .488. Sacramento State shot exactly 50 percent from the floor in both halves.

"We didn't play great tonight, but our guys really had a competitive mentality and found a way to win," Katz said. "Early in the game, we couldn't score (two points in the first 7:36), but we really found a way to ramp it up offensively at the midway point of the first half (61 points over the final 32:24). Our guys know their roles, and we are really starting to execute and become more efficient."

Leading the way for the Hornets was Mills, who scored a game and season-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. The second-year senior also grabbed five rebounds and posted season highs in assists (3) and steals (3) without a turnover in a career-high tying 35 minutes. Apparently, Mills likes the cold of Grand Forks where tonight's game-time temperature was 2 degrees outside the arena. Last season, Mills scored a career-high 20 points at North Dakota.

Mills was one of four Hornets in double figures, including McKinney (13 points, five assists and three steals in 39 minutes), senior Alex Tiffin (12 points, five rebounds) and senior Dylan Garrity (10 points, three assists in 35 minutes). All four of the Hornets in double figures make up the team's senior class. Mills and Tiffin led a bench effort that outscored North Dakota's reserves by a wide margin (29-19). Hornsby added seven points and team-high seven rebounds, and Demps finished with four points, five rebounds and three assists. All four of Demps' points came during the game's final 2:08.

Sacramento State also held a 31-22 advantage in the rebounding department, and outscored UND in second chance points, 10-2. In fact, North Dakota had just three offensive rebounds the entire evening.

For UND, Shanks led the way with 14 points, while de Rouen had 11 points and four steals, and Nash added 11 points and nine rebounds. North Dakota finished the game shooting .511 (24-47) from the field, .200 (2-10) from the 3-point line and .733 (11-15) from the free throw line.

Sacramento State will look to improve to 4-0 in the Big Sky on Saturday when the team travels to Greeley to take on Northern Colorado at 6 p.m. PST.