Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sacramento State Suddenly Carrying the Big Sky Torch

A week into the season, and Big Sky teams have just two victories against Division I opponents. Both of those wins are by Sacramento State.

After a thrilling, come from behind win last night over Utah, the Hornets are now 3-0. It is early, but they are looking a lot better than the seventh place team that the coaches poll predicted, the eighth place team the media predicted,or even the sixth place team that I predicted.

The Hornets had four players score in double figures, comprised of point guard Dylan Garrity (game-high 19), forward John Dickson (16), shooting guard Mikh McKinney (13) and swingman Joe Eberhard (10). Garrity and McKinney are both sophomores, and they combined for 15 of the team’s points during the 29-13 run.

In fact, Garrity had 11 of his 19 points during the final 9:07, including a high-arching jumper that gave the Hornets a 72-71 lead with 1:29 to play. That marked Sacramento State’s first lead since midway part of the first half when a Dickson three-pointer gave the Hornets a 21-20 lead.
A win over Utah doesn't quite mean as much as it used to, but it is still a road win over a Pac-12 opponent, which is far more than anyone else can put on their resume in the conference in this young season.

Utah led 58-45 at the 12:27 mark before the Hornets came back. Dylan Garrity was the star, scoring 19 points on 5/7 shooting (3/4 from downtown) and 6/6 from the charity stripe. He scored 11 of his 19 points in the final nine minutes. That man needs to shoot more!

The Hornets are 3-0 for the first time since 1999-2000, and this looks like their best team in ages. They will try to improve to 4-0 on Tuesday night, when they take on rival UC-Davis. At a time when it is arguably an insult by Utah if they put you on their non-conference schedule, this win has to feel great for the Hornets.

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  1. It does feel great. Knocking off a well funded Pac-12 opponent at elevation is a huge step in the right direction.

  2. The biggest thing about this win is that it came on the road against a team with an .800 winning percentage (533-133) all-time at the Huntsman Center.

    It was also the Hornets first nationally televised game. Those may seem like small things, but they are big building blocks for the future.

    That being said, I'm waiting until Sac State has a perfect record and NCAA championship before I start getting too excited about this season. There are some very good teams in the Big Sky, and all you have to do is look at the way all the ACC teams finish after always being in the top 25 to start. That's what conference play will do when things are so tightly packed.

  3. Being 533-133 is completely meaningless this Utah team is absolutely terrible. They scheduled Sac St and Idaho St because they were afraid to schedule in state rivals and have had 15 leave the program since the new coaching regime took over. With that said it is not easy to win on the road especially at high elevation.

  4. Bryan, I understand that it is very early in the season and they could easily drop off in conference play. But for a team with Sac State's history (I can't remember when their last winning season was but it was either late 80s or early 90s), a 3-0 start with two wins over D1 teams is a pretty big deal in my book. A lot can happen, but it's certainly their best start in quite a while.

  5. Jon I agree it's a big deal. I'm just not getting too excited over it. They got off to a good start last year, too, and ended up missing the conference tournament.

    That being said, it's the best start since 1999-2000 for the Hornets.

    They haven't had a winning season since 1988-89. Their best D-I era record was 2005-06 (15-15) and they haven't had a winning season in the Big Sky since posting an 8-6 record in 2004-05.

    My big takeaway from the preseason so far is that the conference is more up for grabs than ever. Brian Katz told me last year that there are two clear top teams (Montana and Weber State) and everyone else was fighting for third. The way the preseason has started, everything looks up for grabs this year.