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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State used a 17-8 run over the final 5:03 and senior Mikh McKinney scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Hornets defeated Northern Colorado, 66-59, in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at the Nest.

The win improved the Hornets to 17-8 overall, 11-3 in the Big Sky, 12-1 at home, and clinched the program's second straight and sixth Big Sky Tournament berth since joining the league in 1996-97. Eastern Washington, Montana and Northern Arizona all won tonight, so the top four in the 12-member league remain the same. Eastern Washington sits in first with an 11-2 record, followed by Sacramento State (11-3), Montana (11-3) and Northern Arizona (9-4). The Hornets, who rank among the top two teams in the Big Sky standings this late in the season for the first time ever, have just four games remaining in the regular season.

The winner of the regular season championship will host the Big Sky Tournament (March 12-14). The top eight teams qualify for the league's postseason event and the winner will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Tonight's win gave the Hornets their most conference victories (11) since joining the league, and the 17 overall wins are the most in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and tied for the fifth best mark in program history (1948-pres.). In addition, the Hornets have won a school-record nine consecutive home games over Big Sky foes dating back to last season. Overall, the team has won eight straight home games, the most since the 1986-87 squad also ripped off eight straight.

Tonight's crowd of 1,332 marked the fourth consecutive sellout, and with Saturday night's game against North Dakota already sold out, the Hornets will close the regular season with five consecutive sellouts. Saturday's game against UND will mark the final home regular season game as the team's last three games will come on the road.
In tonight's game, the Hornets made a lot of headway during the closing stages of both halves. In fact, Sacramento State used a 22-5 run over the final 8:30 of the first half, and a 17-8 run over the final 5:03 of the second half. The first half run erased a 17-7 deficit and allowed the Hornets to enter halftime with a 29-22 lead.

In the second half, it was a Tevin Svihovec jumper which gave the Bears a 51-49 lead with 6:05 remaining. That proved to be Northern Colorado's final lead of the evening as Sacramento State scored the next seven points and never led by anything less than three points the remainder of the evening. During that 17-8 run, McKinney put on a show, scoring 11 of those points, including three free throws to give the Hornets a 54-51 lead with 4:22 left.

Sacramento State made things interesting by going just 2-for-6 from the free throw line, including two missed front ends of 1-and-1 situations, over the final 3:26. However, Northern Colorado missed five of its final six field goal attempts and missed a pair of free throws during the game's final minute.

Sacramento State, which connected on 14-of-21 field goals in the second half, finished the game shooting .500 (22-44) from the floor, .267 (4-15) from the 3-point line and .621 (18-29) from the free throw line. The Hornets outrebounded the Bears, 38-34, and had six blocked shots, their third highest output of the season. Sacramento State did have 16 turnovers, but owned a 16-13 advantage in points off miscues.

Northern Colorado was limited to .417 (25-60) from the field, including 3-for-19 from the 3-point line and 6-of-14 from the free throw line.

"I was excited we were able to win this game despite not playing to the level we are capable, but Northern Colorado had a lot to do with that," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "For our guys to bounce back, grind it out, and figure out a way to win was huge.

"If a team has to play great every night in order to win, you probably aren't a very good team. You've got a find a way to win ugly, and although this wasn't necessarily ugly, it certainly wasn't our best game."

McKinney's 23 points came on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line. He also added two steals and played all 40 minutes. His 17 points in the second half came on 5-of-8 shooting and 5-for-6 from the free throw stripe. All five starters scored at least seven points, including senior Dylan Garrity who finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Junior Cody Demps wasn't far off a triple-double, tallying eight points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots in 36 minutes. Both the assists and blocks were career highs, and the rebounds matched a season best.

Sophomore Nick Hornsby had eight points and four rebounds, and sophomore Eric Stuteville had seven points. Senior Alex Tiffin added six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench for the Hornets.

Northern Colorado had three players score in double figures, comprised of Dominque Lee (10 points, game-high 12 rebounds), Svihovec (16 points) and Jordan Wilson (11 points). Wilson, however, shot 5-of-14 from the field and 1-for-5 from distance.

Prior to Saturday night's game against North Dakota at 7 p.m., Hornet seniors McKinney, Garrity, Tiffin and Zach Mills will be honored for their contributions to the program.