LATE RUN FALLS JUST SHORT IN MEN’S HOOPS’ 64-61 LOSS AT EASTERN WASH.

LATE RUN FALLS JUST SHORT IN MEN’S HOOPS’ 64-61 LOSS AT EASTERN WASH.

CHENEY, Wash. -- Sacramento State closed the game on a 19-6 run, and had its length of the court pass intercepted as time expired as the Hornets lost to Eastern Washington, 64-61, in a battle for first place in the Big Sky Conference standings Thursday evening at Reese Court.

With the loss, the Hornets (16-7, 10-2) fall out of first place for the first time in nearly a month and had their seven-game winning streak snapped. That seven-game winning streak had been tied for the sixth longest in school history (1948-pres.). Sacramento State hadn't lost a game since Jan. 10 prior to tonight, and now sit a half game behind Eastern Washington (19-5, 10-1) in the standings. The Hornets have six games remaining (two at home, four on the road) and the Eagles have seven games remaining (three at home, four on the road).

The winner of the Big Sky regular season championship will host the conference tournament March 12-14. The winner of the conference tournament will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Hornets are seeking their first NCAA Tournament berth in their Div. I era (1991-pres.). The program had four NCAA Tournament appearances in the Div. II era (1959, 1962, 1970, 1988).

Both teams are currently ranked in the Mid-Major top 25 as Eastern Washington is 12th and Sacramento State 14th. The two teams split their season series as the Hornets beat the Eagles in Sacramento, 90-77, back on Jan. 17. EWU moved its record to 12-0 this year on its home floor.

The Eagles never trailed the entire way, opening up a game-high 16-point lead (58-42) with 7:01 remaining. However, that's when the Hornets went on a big run to make things interesting. Sacramento State senior guard Mikh McKinney scored each of Sacramento State's final nine points, including consecutive 3-pointers to slice the Eagle lead to two points (60-58) with 1:35 remaining.

However, the Eagles' Garrett Moon immediately answered with a bucket to put the Eagles on top, 62-58, with 1:16 left. Both teams did not score on its next possessions (including a pair of missed Hornet free throws) before McKinney was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining. McKinney drained all three freebies to pull the Hornets within a point (62-61), the closest they had been since the 14:20 mark of the first half.

The Hornets immediately fouled on the inbounds and Drew Brandon sunk both free throws for a 64-61 EWU lead with three seconds remaining. Sacramento State then threw a length of the floor pass, but that pass was intercepted as time expired.

In a game that featured two of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, Eastern Washington buried 12-of-23 (.522) from distance, including eight 3-balls in the first half and four more in the second half. The 12 three-pointers were the most allowed by Sacramento State this season. In addition, Eastern Washington finished with 13 blocked shots as no Hornet opponent had tallied more than seven prior to tonight. Overall, the Eagles shot .478 (22-46) from the field and the team converted on just 10 two-point field goals all evening.

Sacramento State shot .407 (22-54) from the field, .444 (8-18) from the 3-point line and 9-of-13 (.692) from the free throw line. Of those 54 field goal attempts, 13 were blocked by EWU defenders. Both teams converted on the same amount of field goals and the Hornets had one more made free throw, but the Eagles' proficiency from beyond the arc was a huge factor in tonight's game.

After the Eagles led at halftime, 31-24, the Hornets outscored EWU in the second half by a 37-33 margin. Sacramento State had 11 steals (tied for its third largest output of the season), and outscored the Eagles in points off turnovers by a 14-4 margin. Only 40 points were scored in the paint as the Hornets had a 22-18 advantage. The Hornets outrebounded the Eagles, 31-30, and 10 of Sacramento State's 31 rebounds came on the offensive glass.

McKinney finished with a game-high 21 points including four assists in 39 minutes. He shot 4-of-7 from the 3-point line, 5-of-6 from the free throw line, and 14 of his points came in the second half. The team co-captain scored 11 of the team's 19 points during the game-closing 19-6 run. Joining McKinney in double figures was senior Dylan Garrity who finished with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Junior Cody Demps finished with six points, 10 rebounds and a career-high four steals, and sophomore Nick Hornsby had six points, seven rebounds and a career-high five steals. Senior Zach Mills finished with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and sophomore Eric Stuteville had eight points and four rebounds.

Three Eagles finished in double figures, comprised of Ognjen Miljkovic (16 points, 4-of-5 from the 3-point line), Parker Kelly (15 points, 5-of-8 from distance) and Drew Brandon (13 points, 2-of-5 from 3-point line). Those three players combined to shoot 11-of-18 from beyond the arc. No other Eagle player had more than seven points.

Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday when the team travels to Big Sky newcomer Idaho for a game at 7:05 p.m. PST. The Hornets defeated Idaho at the Nest back on Jan. 15 by a 79-76 score.