SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Exactly one day shy of the anniversary of the Hail Garrity, Sacramento State senior guard Dylan Garrity made perhaps a bigger shot, burying a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds remaining to give the Hornets a 70-69 Big Sky Conference victory over Montana on Saturday night at a rocking Nest.
It was on Feb. 1, 2014, when Garrity buried a 75-footer at the buzzer to defeat Weber State in overtime in a shot that's been dubbed "The Hail Garrity". Exactly 364 days later, the senior co-captain striped a 3-ball from the left corner which capped a 9-0 Hornet run and gave Sacramento State a long-awaited victory over Montana. Prior to tonight, the Hornets had lost 15 straight games to Montana with the last victory over the Grizzlies coming at home on Jan. 4, 2007.
After the Garrity 3-ball, Montana still had six seconds remaining and an overflow crowd of 1,407 had to wait out three timeouts before the Grizzlies finally inbounded the ball. Montana eventually got the ball to Mike Weisner who missed a shot from the corner with slightly less than three seconds remaining. Jack Lopez grabbed the rebound on the left side of the basket, turned quickly and fired off a 10-footer that hit iron and backboard before falling off.
"We put the ball in Mikh (McKinney)'s hands, he got double teamed and passed it to Alex (Tiffin) on the 3-point line," Garrity said. "Alex was able to find me in the corner for an open look and I knocked it down. As soon as it left my hands, I knew it had a good chance of going in. I had a pretty good look at the basket, and I remember how loud the crowd got when the ball went through the hoop.
"Its the loudest I've ever heard the Nest during my career. The crowd was awesome tonight. I didn't think they could top Thursday's atmosphere, but they found a way. They had a big hand in this victory."
Montana was held scoreless over the game's final three minutes as their last bucket came at the 3:03 mark by Mario Dunn, which gave the Griz a 69-61 lead. Montana's scoreless stretch also included a front end of a 1-and-1 miss by Weisner with 18 seconds left which opened the door for Garrity's late heroics.
The final Grizzly miss set off a wild celebration that included hundreds of fans storming the court in jubilation. The crowd, which had been amazing in Thursday night's win against Montana State, was even louder on Saturday. In fact, the 1,407 fans were the most at the Nest since 1,445 packed into the facility on Jan. 26, 2002. The crowd was also the third largest in the Nest since the facility's seats were renovated prior to the 2000-01 season.
With the victory, Sacramento State improved to 15-6 overall, 9-1 in the Big Sky, and the Hornets remain all alone in first place in the Big Sky standings this late in the season for the first time ever. The 15-6 overall record is the program's best in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and best since the 1987-88 squad was 16-5. That 1987-88 team, which played during the program's Div. II era, was also the last Sacramento State men's hoops squad to qualify for an NCAA Tournament.
In addition, the Hornets have won six straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The six-game winning streak is the longest since the 1987-88 squad ripped off six straight and matches the seventh longest winning streak in school history. The Hornets are now 10-1 at home, 6-0 against the Big Sky at home, and 31-8 overall inside the friendly confines since the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
Sacramento State, which is ranked a school-record 20th in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll, also tied its Div. I-era high water mark for most victories. The 2005-06 team finished the year with a 15-15 record. One more win would clinch Sacramento State's first overall winning season in the Div. I era.
"First of all, the unsung hero of tonight's game was the crowd," Sacramento State seventh-year head coach Brian Katz said. "There is no question they had an effect on the game. That was an electric and intimidating atmosphere, and when it mattered most, they got the loudest.
"Give Montana credit, they did a very good job with their game plan, but we made some late plays and came out on top. As soon as Dylan got the ball, I knew he would make it. He has ice in his veins, and is so calm, tough minded and confident in pressure situations. Dylan is a bigtime winner."
Montana, which opened up a game-high 13-point lead with 9:34 remaining in the contest, finished the game shooting .500 (25-50) from the field, .524 (11-21) from the 3-point line, but just 8-of-15 from the free throw line. The Grizzlies missed their final four field goal attempts while also committing two turnovers and missing a big free throw opportunity during the final three minutes. Montana also held advantages in rebounds (30-26), second-chance points (11-7) and points off the bench (11-4).
Sacramento State, which had a 32-30 lead at halftime, finished the game .463 (19-41) from the floor, .400 (6-15) from the 3-point line and .765 (26-34) from the free throw line. The game may have been won at the charity stripe where the Hornets converted 18 more free throws than the Grizzlies. Sacramento State also forced 15 Griz turnovers and outscored the Montana, 15-9, in points off miscues.
Four Hornet starters scored in double figures, comprised of senior Mikh McKinney (18 points, six assists and three steals), junior Cody Demps (18 points, five rebounds), sophomore Eric Stuteville (13 points, 9-of-15 from the free throw line) and Garrity (10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers). Sophomore Nick Hornsby added seven points, five rebounds and a career-high tying four steals. All four of Hornsby's steals came in the second half, including a huge swipe of Montana's Jordan Gregory with 31 seconds remaining.
All but four of the Hornets' 70 points came from their five starters. McKinney, who battled cramps throughout the second half, and Demps both played a team-high 38 minutes.
For Montana, Brandon Gfeller scored a game-high 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the 3-point line. He was joined in double figures by Dunn (14 points, five assists), Martin Breunig (11 points, four rebounds), Gregory (11 points, four assists) and Weisner (11 points, 3-of-5 from the 3-point line).
Sacramento State returns to action one week from today to host Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 2:05 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 7:05 p.m., but was moved up three weeks ago to 2:05 p.m.