With point guard Dylan Garrity out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game, Sacramento State looked to the other half of its back court.
Sophomore guard Mikh McKinney led the Hornets to their fifth Big Sky Conference win of the season with 26 points in a 79-72 win against Northern Colorado.
His 26 points, including three 3-pointers, surpassed his previous career high when he scored 23 against Cal State Bakersfield earlier this year.
“Dylan (Garrity) is a big part of our team, so we obviously needed someone to step up,” McKinney said. “I decided to take that time to shine and step up for the team.”
Garrity did not play Thursday because of a back injury that he suffered in pre-game warmups, but did come off the bench against Northern Colorado.
Hornets’ head coach Brian Katz said he prepared his team during practice as though Garrity would not play; it was a game-time decision to give him minutes.
In only 29 minutes of action, Garrity finished with seven points and nine assists. Although he said his back hurt some, he played through it.
“He is a silent assassin,” Katz said. “He’s a gutsy competitor and when it matters, he is going to compete.”
The Hornets climbed out to an early 23-15 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half after senior center Konner Veteto hit a pair of layups.
Northern Colorado responded quickly by hitting three 3-point shots in the final nine minutes of the first half, giving the Bears a 35-32 halftime lead.
In the second half, Northern Colorado tried to keep that momentum, but Sac State received a spark from junior guard Jackson Carbajal who came off the bench with 17 minutes left in the game.
Carbajal finished with nine points, including a 3-pointer from the corner that gave Sac State its first lead of the second half. On the next possession, Garrity sunk another outside shot and the Hornets would never look back.
“I’ve never been happier for a kid,” Katz said. “He has worked so hard and is just a wonderful kid.”
This season Carbajal’s production has been down considerably because of a back injury that sat him out for the first two conference games back in December. Since then, he has only averaged 2.2 points per game in 7.6 minutes.
“I was just waiting for my time to come,” Carbajal said. “I couldn’t do it without everyone who has had my back all season and hopefully I can just keep it going from here.”
The Hornets travel to Southern Utah for a game with the Thunderbirds on Thursday before returning home to The Nest for three straight games.
Sac State defeated Southern Utah in their first meeting back on Jan. 7, 64-59 and will look for the program’s first sweep of an opponent since 2006 when it defeated Portland State twice.
Tipoff is at 6:05 p.m.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @rskuhn and for live game updates follow State Hornet Sports @SH_sports