This is the season of giving, and Sacramento State men’s basketball coach Brian Katz will be sure to remember his good friend John Peterson.
Peterson was the coach at Ohlone College and the man who insisted that Katz needed to find a place for Mikh McKinney, then starring for the Fremont Community College.
Katz wasn’t so sure about the prospects for the slightly built guard. McKinney didn’t have any scholarship offers until Katz relented and made him an offer.
“I’d like to tell you that it was a recruiting coup, but I wasn’t sold on him,” Katz said. “I didn’t think he’d be able to take the physical pounding of D-I basketball. But John Peterson (now an assistant at Loyola Marymount) told me if I didn’t take him, it would be the dumbest thing I’d ever done.”
McKinney, now in his third season in Sacramento, is making a case for being one of the best to ever play for the Hornets. He added to his growing résumé in Sunday’s 80-75 tough-luck nonconference loss to big, talented Portland at The Nest.
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound senior guard scored a career-high 32 points. He also eight assists, seven steals and seven rebounds and played 39 minutes – all Hornets’ bests ‑ in enabling Sac State to make a game of it against a Pilots team that is off to a 7-2 start and is 9-1 lifetime against the Hornets.
McKinney also became the 13th player in Sac State history to score 1,000 career points. His jumper with 5:36 to play allowed him to reach the milestone, and he now has 1,003 career points despite playing less than 21/2 seasons.
“It’s an honor, but that’s pretty much all I can say,” said McKinney, a unanimous All-Big Sky Conference first team selection last season as a junior. “I’m not real hyped about it right now, seeing that we just lost.”
The Hornets (5-4), bidding for a 5-0 start at home, had their opportunities to upset the Pilots.
Dylan Garrity’s deep three-pointer with 1:11 to play cut Portland’s lead to 76-75, but the Hornets’ Cody Demps, Dreon Bartlett and McKinney committed turnovers on consecutive plays and Bobby Sharp made four free throws to close it out for Portland.
“We’ve just got to take care of the ball in the clutch, and that includes me,” McKinney said. “That’s a great team. They’ve got some good wins behind them. I know for everybody, it hurts to lose. But I know the fans see how hard we’re working.”
Thomas Van Der Mars, a 6-11 post from the Netherlands, led Portland with 20 points and 6-11 Ukrainian forward Volodymyr Gerun had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sac State’s Eric Stuteville had 14 points and Garrity added 11 for the Hornets, who next play Dec. 21 at Seattle and Dec. 27 at Utah Valley before returning home for the Big Sky Conference opener Jan. 1 against Northern Arizona.
McKinney, who scored 16 points in each half, kept the announced crowd of 685 well entertained. He was 13 of 21 from the field and 5 of 5 from the foul line.
“I’m a small guy, so I just find different ways to get my shot off out there, hence the fadeaways and the crazy shots,” McKinney said. “But it was a collective effort. I really took what the defense gave me and Eric, Tiff (Alex Tiffin) and Nick (Hornsby) set good screens. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
USC 101, Sacramento State 99 in Los Angeles – Senior Fantasia Hilliard tied her career-high 28 points and the Hornets led by as many as 11 points in the second half before the Trojans used a 13-2 run to even the score and eventually pull ahead.
Sac State (1-8) shot a season-best 48.7 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from three-point range, making 13 of 29 three-point shots.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.