Sacramento State’s 79-58 rout of second-place Northern Colorado on Saturday at the Nest has made other teams in the Big Sky Conference take notice.
The Hornets (13-12, 9-7) are the hottest men’s team in the conference. They have established several program milestones while extending their home winning streak to seven games and moving closer to their first Big Sky tournament berth since 2005-2006.
“We’ve gone on a run and we’ve made a statement to the Big Sky that we’re not a joke,” said junior guard Mikh McKinney, named Monday as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for the second time in less than a month after the Hornets moved to within a game of second place. “You win seven out of eight, you demand respect.”
But Sac State coach Brian Katz is more realistic, knowing things can change quickly.
“This is just another brick in the building,” Katz said. “As well as we have played lately, we could lose our last four and be done.”
Sac State plays tonight at first-place Weber State (15-9, 12-4) and Saturday at Idaho State (10-15, 7-9) before finishing the regular season at home next week against Montana and Montana State.
Sac State is in a three-way tie for third with Montana (14-11, 9-7) and North Dakota (12-14, 9-7), a team the Hornets beat 71-65 last Thursday. Montana State (13-14, 8-8) is in a four-way tie for sixth with Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona and Portland State.
The Hornets shocked Weber State 78-75 in overtime Feb. 1 on Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot buzzer beater that has been nominated for the GEICO men’s basketball college play of the year. The win snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
Weber State is looking not only to avenge that shocking loss but also to protect a home-court advantage that is now at 27 consecutive wins against conference foes. If it holds its spot in the Big Sky, Weber State will host the conference tournament.
Sac State beat Idaho State 84-78 on Jan. 30 at home, but the Bengals are 6-2 in conference games in Pocatello.
Despite Sac State’s recent success, Katz isn’t convinced Big Sky foes are shaking in their high tops over playing the Hornets, who are 2-6 on the road in conference.
“I’m not saying they’re disrespecting us, but I don’t think they’re worried about us,” Katz said. “Now if we beat Weber and Idaho State, that would be a benchmark for us. But the odds of that aren’t great at all.”
But perhaps the odds are a little better with McKinney playing so well.
He had 29 points, a career-best 11 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes against Northern Colorado and 19 points, four rebounds and six assists against North Dakota. And he’s led the Hornets in scoring in nine consecutive games.
“I’m always surprised at the end of the game when they say you did this, you did that,” McKinney said. “I just do whatever I have to do to get the win.”
Looking for a bye – The UC Davis women (11-14, 6-6 Big West Conference), who beat Hawaii 56-52 on Saturday at the Pavilion to end a three-game losing streak, play at first-place Cal Poly (15-11, 9-4) tonight and at UC Santa Barbara (8-17, 3-9) on Saturday.
The Aggies are in a fifth-place tie with UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton and are trying to overtake Long Beach State (15-11, 7-5) for fourth place. That would earn the Aggies a first-round bye in the Big West tournament.
Junior forward Sydnee Fipps, who had 22 points against Hawaii, is 11th on the Aggies’ all-time list with 1,117 points, within striking distance of coach Jennifer Gross. Gross, a point guard for the Aggies from 1993 to 1997, is tied for eighth with 1,143 points.
“If you said give me those points back and you win the Big West championship, she’d do it,” Gross said of Fipps earlier this season. “Individual accomplishments are not as big to her as being on the big stage playing for a championship.”
Explosion awaits? – When the Sac State (16-9, 8-8) and Weber State (2-14, 6-19) women played Feb. 1, they combined for a Big Sky Conference record 215 points in the Hornets’ 111-104 victory in Ogden.
Entering tonight’s game at the Nest, the struggling Hornets need a victory if they hope to make the Big Sky tournament. The injury-riddled Hornets have won only one of their last five games.
On Jan. 23, the Hornets scored 110 points and beat first-place North Dakota (18-8, 13-4) by six points. In Saturday’s 30-point loss at North Dakota, the Hornets scored just 57 points.
Sac State is in a three-way tie for fifth place with Montana State (13-12, 8-8) and Idaho State (10-15, 8-8), a team the Hornets host Saturday.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.