MEN’S HOOPS REMAINS IN FIRST PLACE AFTER 62-59 ROAD WIN AT IDAHO STATE

MEN’S HOOPS REMAINS IN FIRST PLACE AFTER 62-59 ROAD WIN AT IDAHO STATE

POCATELLO, Idaho -- Sacramento State's Zach Mills (0:13.3) and Trevis Jackson (0:1.6) both hit a pair of clutch free throws over the final 15 seconds to help the Hornets secure a 62-59 road win at Idaho State on Thursday evening at Reed Gym.

Although the Hornets held a lead for over 35 minutes of the contest, neither team held an advantage better than four points the final 6:54. A layup from Jeffrey Solarin at the 3:01 mark gave Idaho State its first lead (54-53) since the 4:03 mark of the first half. However, Sacramento State's Mikh McKinney responded with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws on back-to-back possessions to give the Hornets a 58-54 lead with 1:45 remaining.

The Bengals answered with a layup from Ben Wilson and a Chris Hansen 3-pointer to reclaim the lead at 59-58 with 33 seconds remaining. After taking 20 seconds off the shot clock on the Hornets' next possession, Mills was eventually fouled on his way to the rim and buried both free throws to give the Hornets a 60-59 lead with 13.3 seconds remaining. Idaho State then dribbled up the floor before Sacramento State pressured Hansen and forced a turnover with 3.3 seconds left. Sacramento State threw the inbounds pass to Jackson, who was fouled and calmly sunk both free throws to give the Hornets a 62-59 lead with 1.6 seconds left.

The Bengals got a desperation heave at halfcourt from Hansen that hit backboard and no iron as time expired. Jackson, a sophomore guard from Santa Monica, was inserted into the game for the first time on the inbounds pass with three seconds left. The free throws were not only the biggest of his collegiate career, but were his first attempts from the charity stripe all season.

With the victory, Sacramento State improved to 12-6 overall, a school-record 6-1 in the Big Sky, and remain all alone in first place in the conference this late in the season for the first time since joining the league in 1996-97. The Hornets have won three straight, seven of their last eight games, and the 12-6 record is the best after 18 games since the 2005-06 season and the second best mark since the program joined the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.

Eastern Washington and Montana both won tonight and improved to 5-1 in the conference, and remain a half game behind Sacramento State in the standings. Northern Colorado, which entered the day at 4-1, lost on the road to Eastern Washington, 95-85, and dropped to 4-2.

Idaho State, which has now lost three straight games by four points or less, dropped to 4-15 overall and 1-6 in the Big Sky. In addition, of the Bengals' last 10 losses, seven have come by single digits. The Hornets improved to 17-27 all-time against Idaho State, and 8-15 when playing in Pocatello. Amazingly, 10 of the last 14 meetings between the two teams have been decided by six points or less.

The game may have been won at the free throw line where the Hornets converted 15 of their 19 opportunities (.789) while Idaho State went just 11-of-20 (.550) from the stripe. Sacramento State didn't shoot particularly well from the field, converting on .449 (22-49) and .273 (3-11) from the 3-point line. The Hornets had entered the game ranked 13th in the nation in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and tonight's 3-point percentage was the team's lowest mark in the last nine games.

Both teams connected on the same amount of field goals (22) and Idaho State had one more made 3-pointer, but the Hornets converted on four more free throws, providing the final outcome. ISU shot .489 (22-45) from the floor, and .444 (4-9) from distance. The Hornets held a 31-27 edge in the rebounding department and had 14 assists on their 22 made buckets.

McKinney finished with a game-high 24 points as no other player on the floor was within eight points of his final output. It marked the seventh time this season the third-year senior and team co-captain has gone over 20 points, and he shot 8-of-13 from the field, 3-of-6 from distance and 5-for-7 from the free throw line. He was the only Hornet to hit a 3-pointer and 14 of his points came in the second half. He also added a game-high tying five assists and had just one turnover in 38 minutes played.

Joining McKinney in double figures was sophomore center Eric Stuteville, who had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, four rebounds and three blocked shots. Stuteville scored the first eight points of the game for the Hornets, punctuated by a dunk that gave the team an 8-4 lead. Sophomore Nick Hornsby added eight points, seven rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes, and senior Alex Tiffin had eight points and five rebounds in an active 15 minutes. Cody Demps had four points, five rebounds and three assists, and Mills finished with three points and two rebounds.

Impressively, Sacramento State was able to win the game despite fourth-year senior guard Dylan Garrity being held scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting. It marked the first time Garrity, who entered the game averaging 14.2 ppg, had been held scoreless since the fifth game of his freshman season. That breaks down to a span of 98 consecutive games without being held scoreless.

Idaho State had three players score in double figures, comprised of Solarin (16 points, eight rebounds), Nnamdi Ezenwa (14 points, five rebounds) and Wilson (10 points, five assists and three steals). Hansen, who entered the game as the team's leading scorer at 17.1 ppg, did not play in the first half and finished with eight points in 17 second-half minutes.

The Hornets return to action on Saturday when the team travels to Ogden, Utah, for a matchup at Weber State at 6 p.m. PST. The Wildcats' home floor, the Dee Events Center, has been an absolute house of horrors for Sacramento State as the team is just 1-20 all-time when playing Weber State in Ogden. The lone win came on Jan. 14, 2006.