SALT LAKE CITY—Losing frequently has defined Sacramento State on the basketball court ever since it has competed on the Division I level. The Hornets have never finished a season above .500 in that span and have struggled to stay out of the Big Sky cellar.

After taking down a Pac-12 team on its home court, there's a sense that this season could be the one that changes everything.

Dylan Garrity scored 19 points and hit the go-ahead jumper with 1:27 left to help Sacramento State rally from a 13 point second-half deficit and upset Utah 74-71 on Friday night.

The Hornets (3-0) have won three straight to open a season for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. John Dickson added 16 points to help Sacramento State win just its third game against a Pac-12 opponent and its first since defeating Oregon State in 2009.

It is the ultimate confidence builder for a program that is aching to turn the corner. Garrity believes the right ingredients are in place.

"We have all the right guys in the room," Garrity said. "We all want to win. We all want the same outcome."

Utah (1-1) could not hold on despite getting 16 points from Glen Dean, 13 points from Jarred Dubois and 10 from Renan Lenz.

Sacramento State hung with Utah early by drilling one 3-pointer after another. The Hornets made 6 of 13 from 3-point range, despite shooting just 37.9 percent from the field overall, in the first half. They finished 10 of 23 from the perimeter for the game.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said Sacramento State knew how to attack his team's defense and stuck with the plan from start to finish.

"Sacramento State is a good team," Krystkowiak said. "They have four returning starters, and they knew what they wanted to do. We knew what they wanted to do, but we got away from what we needed to do."

The Hornets staked out an early 11-6 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from Garrity and Mikh McKinney. When Utah used a 14-4 run to go in front - capped by a put-back layup from Dallin Bachynski - to take a 20-15 lead, Garrity and John Dickson buried back-to-back 3-pointers again to give Sacramento State a 21-20 lead.

The Hornets were finding offense from all the right places. Sacramento State coach Brian Katz said it is a luxury his team has not had in the past, and it has made a difference in their fast start to the season.

"It's harder to guard when you got to guard five guys at once," Katz said.

The Utes eventually took control for a while. A 3-pointer by Dean, followed by a running floater from Justin Seymour a possession later pushed Utah back ahead 25-21. It was the beginning of another 14-4 run that helped the Utes carve out a 34-25 lead before halftime.

Utah came out strong in the second half, but the Hornets managed to whittle the Ute lead away from the 3-point line just like in the first half.

After Seymour buried consecutive baskets to stretch Utah's lead to 58-45, Sacramento State heated up in a major way. Joe Eberhard drilled a pair of 3-pointers to ignite an 11-2 run. It brought the Hornets back to within four at 60-56 with 9:13 remaining.

"Our defense slipped a little bit when they went on that run," Garrity said. "They got some easy buckets and uncontested shots. We called a timeout and looked in each other's eyes and said, 'No more of that. We're going to play tough defense. We're going to get a stop and we're going to go out and score.' We did that possession after possession until we climbed back."

From that point, the two teams traded free throws and baskets. The Hornets finally got the upper hand when Konner Veteto backed in for a tying layup with 1:57 left. Then, Sacramento State took a 72-71 lead after Garrity drained a jumper with 1:27 remaining.

Bachynski had a chance to tie it but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 51.1 seconds left. After Utah failed to get a rebound following a missed shot by Dickson on the other end, Eberhard hit a pair of free throws with 12.1 seconds left to seal the victory.

For the Utes, the loss felt like a blow after dealing with a historically bad season a year ago. 

"We played really well for three-fourths of the game, but we need to learn how to close," Dean said. "Last year, we had to learn how to lose and just try to be in every game. This year we need to learn how to win."