MEN’S HOOPS' HISTORIC SEASON COMES TO AN END IN 78-73 CIT LOSS TO NAU

MEN’S HOOPS' HISTORIC SEASON COMES TO AN END IN 78-73 CIT LOSS TO NAU

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Northern Arizona overcame a 33-30 halftime deficit by shooting a blistering 78.3 percent (18-23) from the field in the second half on the way to a 78-73 victory over Sacramento State in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) on Saturday evening at the Nest.

In the process, Sacramento State's historic season comes to an end as the Hornets finish with a 21-12 record. The team was making its first postseason appearance since the program qualified for the NCAA Div. II Tournament in 1988, and the 21 victories are easily the high water mark in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and tied for the second best mark in program history (1948-pres.).

The Hornets, who fell in the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals last week, advanced to the second round of the CIT after winning at Portland, 73-66, in the first round on Wednesday. Sacramento State had also won nine straight games at home prior to tonight's loss and finish the season with a 13-2 record at the Nest. In addition, tonight's crowd of 1,137 marked the sixth consecutive home sellout for the Hornets.

Northern Arizona (21-14) advanced to play in the quarterfinals of the tournament against an opponent yet to be determined. The Lumberjacks and Hornets, who are Big Sky rivals, played three times this year with NAU winning two of those matchups.

In tonight's game, Sacramento State used a 38-15 run spanning two halves to take what looked like a comfortable 14-point lead (50-36) with 15:44 to play. However, from there, Northern Arizona couldn't miss, converting on an amazing 15 of its final 18 attempts from the field, slowly chipping away at Sacramento State's lead. NAU took its first lead in over 20 minutes of game clock when Quinton Upshur buried all three free throw attempts to give the Lumberjacks a 71-70 lead with 3:29 to play.

After the Upshur free throws, the Lumberjacks never trailed again. Not helping matters was Sacramento State did not convert a field goal attempt during the final 3:46 of the game, and scored just three points over that span. Trailing by three points, the Hornets had a chance to tie with seven seconds remaining, but senior Mikh McKinney missed a 3-pointer. NAU grabbed the rebound and Gaellan Bewernick made a pair of free throws with five seconds left to put the game away and provide the final outcome.

Northern Arizona dominated down low, outscoring the Hornets in the paint by a 46-20 margin, including 28-8 in the second half. NAU forward Jordyn Martin scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field, and Bewernick added 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The Lumberjacks finished the game shooting .547 (29-53) from the field, .364 (4-11) from the 3-point line and .800 (16-20) from the free throw line. NAU shot just .367 (11-30) in the first half before the torrid second half.

Sacramento State, which had four players finish in double figures, shot .466 (27-58) from the field, .333 (6-18) from the 3-point line and .765 (13-17) from the free throw line. The two teams combined for just 13 turnovers (six by the Hornets), and Northern Arizona outscored the Hornets in the second half by a 48-40 margin.

"Northern Arizona never gave in tonight, even after we took a 14-point lead," Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said. "They played hard, fought back and found a way to win in a tough environment.

"This was a ground-breaking year for the program. The amount of milestones our guys achieved this year are so numerous, its hard to remember them all. This is the team that everyone will talk about 10, 20 and even 30 years from now. This is the group of players that got this program going, and that is certainly something every player on this team should be proud of.

"We lose four seniors (McKinney, Garrity, Alex Tiffin and Zach Mills) and they are going to be hard to replace, but we are excited about the group of players coming back. We have a good culture, and the returners have been taught well by our four seniors. Dylan and Mikh might be the best tandem to ever play at Sacramento State. In fact, you could make the argument they are one of the best back courts in the history of the Big Sky Conference, especially when you consider what they faced coming into a non-winning program."

McKinney (18) and Garrity (18) combined for 36 of the team's 73 points in tonight's game. McKinney, who became the Hornets' first conference MVP since 1977, also finished with six rebounds, four assists and a steal in 39 minutes. Garrity buried three 3-pointers and had two assists to go along with his 18 points.

"During my three seasons, I feel the team just got better and better every year," McKinney said. "The four seniors really made a mark this year, and in the future, this program will continue to get better, Coach Katz will continue to bring in the right guys, and Hornet basketball will be exciting for a long time to come."

"My four years here have been incredible, the best four years of my life," Garrity said. "I will always be thankful to Coach Katz and his staff for giving me a chance when no one else did. I wouldn't have wanted my collegiate career to go any other way, and I will remember this team and the special moments for the rest of my life. I consider everyone in that locker room family, and am so thankful they shaped me into the person and player I am today."

Joining Garrity and McKinney in double figures for the Hornets were junior swingman Cody Demps (16 points, three rebounds, two steals) and sophomore center Eric Stuteville (11 points, six rebounds). Sophomore forward Nick Hornsby added eight points, six rebounds and three assists.

For NAU, Martin (27 points, six rebounds), Quinton Upshur (22 points, 9-of-11 from the free throw line) and Bewernick (11 points) combined for 60 of the Lumberjacks' 78 points.

SACRAMENTO STATE TEAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS
• Sacramento State finished with the season with a 21-12 overall record and 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference.
• The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) that Sacramento State finished with a record above the .500 mark, and first time since the 1988-89 season.
• The 21 wins are tied for second most in school history, and most since the 1987-88 squad went 22-8.
• The 13 conference wins are the most in school history (regardless of conference).
• The Hornets have now improved their conference record every season of head coach Brian Katz's seven-year tenure with the program.
• Sacramento State qualified for the CIT, marking the first time the program had qualified for the postseason on the Div. I level, first time since 1988, and just the fifth time in school history.
• Sacramento State's 73-66 victory over Portland in the first round of the CIT marked the first time in 53 years the Hornets had won a postseason game.
• The Hornets hosted a postseason game inside the Nest for the first time in 53 years.
• Prior to the season, the Hornets had just three winning seasons in the last 38 years, and zero since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991.
• Sacramento State was ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major poll for the first time in school history, ranking as high as 14th in the nation.
• Sacramento State finished just one game out of first place, narrowly missing out on the team's first conference championship since 1977.
• The Hornets were the No. 3 seed at the Big Sky Tournament, the highest seed for the program since joining the league in 1996.
• The team finished with a 13-2 record at home, tied for the most home victories in program history.
• Sacramento State was the only team in the Big Sky to go undefeated at home during league play (9-0).
• Sacramento State's seven-game winning streak from Jan. 15-Feb. 7 tied for the sixth longest in program history.
• Sacramento State won nine straight home games, matching the second longest streak in school history, and longest since the 1971-72 squad also had nine straight home victories.
• The Hornets had three winning streaks of at least four games long, the first time that has happened since the 1987-88 season.
• The Hornets never lost more than two straight games the entire season.
• Sacramento State won seven road games, tied for the most in a single season during the Div. I era.
• Sacramento State reached the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament for just the third time in school history (2003, 2006).
• The Hornets rank among the top 10 teams in the nation in both 3-point field goal percentage (6th, .408) and field goal percentage (9th, .486).
• The Hornets posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.150 during the fall, the best semester mark in school history for the men's basketball program.
• Of the 21 Hornets that have expired their eligibility under Coach Katz, 19 have graduated.

INDIVIDUAL HONORS
• Head coach Brian Katz was named the Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year, becoming the first Hornet men's basketball coach during the Div. I era to receive coach of the year honors.
• Senior guard Mikh McKinney was named the Big Sky MVP, becoming the first Hornet to receive MVP honors since 1977 when Nate Robinson was the Far Western Conference co-Player of the Year.
• McKinney was also unanimously selected to the first team for the second straight season, and is the first Sacramento State player to earn first team all-Big Sky honors on more than one occasion.
• Senior guard Dylan Garrity was named second team all-Big Sky. He received honorable mention accolades his first three years, and becomes the first Hornet in program history to receive all-Big Sky recognition four times.
• McKinney became the first Sacramento State men's basketball player to be named to the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List.
• McKinney was named Big Sky Player of the Week four times this year, a program single-season record.
• McKinney finished his career with 1,468 points, the fourth highest total in school history, and the most for any player that spent less than four years with the program.
• Dylan Garrity finished his career with 1,406 points, the sixth highest total in program history. Garrity finished his career as the program's all-time leader in assists (527), games played (119), games started (116) and total minutes (3,991).