OVERFLOW CROWD TREATED TO MEN’S HOOPS 75-59 VICTORY VS. MONTANA STATE

OVERFLOW CROWD TREATED TO MEN’S HOOPS 75-59 VICTORY VS. MONTANA STATE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Playing in front of an energetic overflow crowd, Sacramento State did not disappoint, as four Hornets scored in double figures on the way to a 75-59 victory against Montana State in front of a rowdy 1,215 fans on Thursday evening at the Nest.

The 1,215 fans were more than 200 over the Nest's capacity of 1,012, and marked the largest crowd in years. They watched Sacramento State use a 16-3 run late in the second half to push a 57-52 lead all the way to a 73-55 advantage with 1:24 remaining. That 18-point lead also was Sacramento State's largest cushion of the contest.

With the victory, the Hornets (14-6, 8-1) have won five straight games, nine of their last 10, and remain all alone at the top of the Big Sky standings with nine conference games left. The team's five-game winning streak matches the program's longest in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and the last 28 years. In addition, the 14-6 overall record is the team's best in the Div. I era, and the best since the 1988-89 squad was also 14-6.

Currently ranked 20th in the nation in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, the highest ranking in school history, the Hornets' 8-1 Big Sky record is tops in school history. This marks the latest in the season Sacramento State has been alone in first place since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97. Trailing the Hornets in the standings are Montana (7-1) and Eastern Washington (6-1) to round out the top three. The Hornets will host Montana on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in what is shaping up to be the biggest game inside the Nest in years.

The Hornets are now 9-1 at home this year, including five straight home wins and a perfect 5-0 mark against Big Sky teams inside the friendly confines. In fact, Sacramento State has won 17 of its last 19 home games, and the team is 30-8 inside the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season.

For the Hornets, McKinney (23 points, eight assists, five steals), Garrity (18 points, four 3-pointers and five assists), sophomore Nick Hornsby (12 points, team-high seven rebounds) and junior Cody Demps (10 points) combined for 63 of Sacramento State's 75 points. Garrity now has 504 career assists, surpassing DaShawn Freeman's total of 501, to set the new program record.

In a game where neither team led by more than five points the first 32 minutes of the contest, Sacramento State was finally able to break free with the late run. During that 16-3 spurt, which began at the 5:34 mark of the second half, there were a number of crowd pleasing moments, including a crossover, step back 3-pointer from McKinney (3:26), a Garrity to Demps alley-oop dunk (2:58), and a Garrity to Hornsby alley-oop finish (1:24). The Demps dunk was the dagger as it gave the Hornets a 14-point lead and ignited a massive response from the crowd that included a prolonged standing ovation.

"I liked the way we regrouped after a tough first half," Sacramento State seventh-year head coach Brian Katz said. "In the second half, I felt like we relaxed a bit and tried to hit singles instead of home runs, and kept putting some distance between ourselves and Montana State.

"There's no question that tonight's crowd had a huge effect on the game. If the fans keep packing the place and are as vocal as they were tonight, we have a definite homecourt advantage. In fact, this is the homecourt advantage we've been hoping for, and we'd love for it to continue."

Sacramento State, which outscored Montana State in the first (36-33) and second (39-26) halves, finished the game shooting .519 (28-54) from the field, .471 (8-17) from the 3-point line and .733 (11-15) from the free throw line. All five Hornet starters shot at least 50 percent from the field and the team was 14-of-24 from the floor in the second half.

While the Hornets' offensive flow was proficient, it may have been the defense that won the game. Montana State shot just .375 (21-56) from the field, and Sacramento State turned 14 MSU turnovers into a 19-6 advantage in points off miscues. The Hornets had nine steals, their fifth highest output of the season, and the Bobcats had more turnovers (14) than assists (10). Montana State (4-16, 1-7)  also shot just .304 (7-23) from the 3-point line, including 4-for-15 in the second half.

Four Bobcats scored in double figures, comprised of Marcus Colbert (13), Eric Norman (12), Stephan Holm (12) and Michael Dison (10).

The winner of Saturday night's game against Montana, which is sure to be another overflow crowd, will sit all alone in first place.