MEN'S HOOPS LOOKS FOR 5TH STRAIGHT WIN THURSDAY AT ABILENE CHRISTIAN

MEN'S HOOPS LOOKS FOR 5TH STRAIGHT WIN THURSDAY AT ABILENE CHRISTIAN

Sacramento State Game Notes (25 pages) - pdf
Big Sky Conference Standings

GAME PREVIEW


• After completing a season-high tying three-game homestand with a perfect 3-0 record, the Hornets (4-1) will travel to Abilene, Texas, to take on Abilene Christian on Thursday night. Tip-off is 5:05 p.m. PST.
• The Hornets are in the midst of a stretch that will see the team play three times over a six-day span, including Monday's home win over Utah Valley, and Saturday at UC Irvine.
• Sacramento State will be playing Abilene Christian for the first time in school history, one of two opponents the Hornets had never played entering the year (Bristol the other).
• Abilene Christian will play the Hornets in Sacramento next season.
• The Wildcats, who play in the Southland Conference, are 2-3 after falling at UC Riverside, 76-56, last week. They return all five starters from a team that went 11-20.
• After losing its first game of the season to 13th-ranked Gonzaga, Sacramento State has won four straight games, including a 70-69 road win at UC Riverside on Nov. 17.
• The Hornets' 4-1 record matches the program's best start after five games since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92. The 1999-00 and 2012-13 squads also began the year 4-1.
• In addition, the four-game winning streak is one shy of the longest winning streak during the program's Div. I era as the 2005-06 squad won five straight.
• In fact, a win on Thursday would allow the Hornets to match their longest winning streak (5 games) in the last 26 years. The 1987-88 squad won six straight games when the program was a member of Div. II.
• Since winning at UC Riverside by a point, the Hornets have won their last three games by an average of 25.0 points per contest.
• Sacramento State senior point guard Dylan Garrity is just two points shy of becoming the 12th player in school history to notch 1,000 career points.
• Head coach Brian Katz has used the same starting lineup each of the last four games - Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity at guards, Cody Demps and Nick Hornsby at forwards, and Eric Stuteville at center.
• The Hornets return all five starters from a season ago, and eight of the top nine scorers. The list is headlined by senior guards and team co-captains Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney, who combine to make up arguably the best back court in the Big Sky Conference. Each of the Hornets' five newcomers are true freshmen.

RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Abilene Christian is offering a live video stream of the game for a fee. Fans can access that link by clicking here. All home games are streamed free in HD at WatchBigSky.com.
• Thursday's game will be broadcast live on KTKZ 1380 AM with J.D. Fox calling all the action. Fox, who worked at Sacramento State in the media relations office for three years, will fill in for Steve McElroy, who is the usual play-by-play voice of the Hornets. McElroy will return to the microphone for Saturday's game at UC Irvine.
• Fans outside the Sacramento area can listen to all games via www.hornetsports.com or on the iHeart Radio application for mobile devices.
• Live stats of the game will be provided for every game this season, via www.hornetsports.com for all home games, or provided by the opponent's website for games on the road. Live stats for Thursday's game can be found by clicking here.
• Links for all multimedia options can be found next to each game on the men's basketball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.

A LOOK AT THE HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Sacramento State won at home Monday night against Utah Valley, 65-56.
• The Hornets led by at least six points the final 27 minutes, and held an advantage for nearly 38 minutes (37:40) of the contest.
• Sacramento State took a game-high 15-point lead (62-47) with 5:59 to play, before Utah Valley cut that lead all the way down to 62-56 with 2:17 to play.
• The Hornets shot .568 (25-44) from the field while Utah Valley was limited to .396 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-19 from beyond the 3-point line.
• Sacramento State had a season-high eight blocks, including three from Eric Stuteville.
• Sophomore forward Nick Hornsby had a career-high 20 points on 8-of-8 shooting.
• Senior Mikh McKinney had 13 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals.
• Eight Hornets played in the game, and each of those players scored at least five points.

SHOOTING THE LIGHTS OUT

• Sacramento State has shot at least .547 from the field in four straight games (all wins), and is now second in the Big Sky with a .529 season field goal percentage.
• That includes Monday's win over Utah Valley in which the Hornets shot .568 (25-44) from the field (.547 at UCR, .551 vs. Simpson, Div. I-record .623 vs. Bristol).
• Five of the Hornets' top eight scorers are shooting better than .550 from the field, comprised of Dreon Barlett (.692), Nick Hornsby (.684), Zach Mills (.630), Mikh McKinney (.619) and Alex Tiffin (.556).
• In addition, the team has shot at least .400 from the 3-point line in three of the last four games, and is now shooting .405 from distance this season.

PRODUCTION OFF THE BENCH

• Sacramento State has received at least 20 points of production from its bench in four of the team's five games, and is averaging 25.4 points per game in bench points.
• The Hornets are outscoring the opponent in bench points, 25.4-18.4, per game.

IMPROVEMENT EVERY YEAR UNDER COACH KATZ

• Sacramento State has improved its conference record every year since head coach Brian Katz took over the program prior the 2008-09 season.
• After going 1-15 during Katz's first season in 2008-09, the Hornets went 3-13 in 2009-10, 4-12 in 2010-11, 5-11 in 2011-12, 8-12 in 2012-13, and 10-10 last year.

GETTING IT DONE IN THE CLASSROOM

• The men's basketball program posted its highest grade point average in school history during the 2014 spring semester, finishing with a cumulative mark of 3.092.
• Of the 14 players on Sacramento State's roster last season, nine finished with a spring term GPA above a 3.0.
• Moreover, Coach Katz's players graduate at a high rate. Of the 18 players that have expired their eligibility under Katz, 16 have graduated.

GETTING LOOKS INSIDE THE PAINT

• One big reason for the Hornets' high field goal percentage is the team has consistently got good looks at the rim, as evidence by 176 points in the paint, or 35.2 per game.
• Sacramento State is outscoring its opposition by more than 11 points per game inside the paint (35.2-24.0).

NEED TO LIMIT THE TURNOVERS

• Sacramento State has already committed 78 turnovers this year, or 15.6 per game. That mark ranks among the bottom three teams in the Big Sky Conference.
• The Hornets have committed at least 13 turnovers in all but one game, and have committed double figures in miscues in all five contests.
• What's so odd about the miscues is the Hornets have notoriously been a team that has taken care of the ball since Coach Katz took over the coaching duties in 2008-09.
• In fact, the Hornets averaged just 10.7 turnovers last season, second in the league.  

HORNETS PICKED HIGH IN PRESEASON RANKINGS

• Of the seven preseason polls released projecting the Big Sky, the Hornets were picked among the top four teams in all seven polls. That includes a first place prediction from Blue Ribbon, a second place prediction by ESPN and third place by The Sporting News.
• The Hornets were tabbed fourth in both the Big Sky coaches and media polls.

PLUS/MINUS STATS

• Four of the Hornets' five starters are better than a +30 for the season in plus/minus ratio, a stat used to determine how the team performs when a certain player is on the floor.
• Mikh McKinney (+58), Cody Demps (+53), Nick Hornsby (+39) and Dylan Garrity (+31) all have healthy plus/minus ratios this year.
• In fact, the Hornets outscore the opposition by 14.5 points per game when McKinney is on the floor, and 10.6 points per game when Demps is on the floor.
• The starting five of Garrity, McKinney, Demps, Hornsby and Eric Stuteville have outscored the opposition, 98-63, when that fivesome is on the floor at the same time.

THE BEST BACK COURT IN THE BIG SKY?

• When talking about the Sacramento State men's basketball program, the conversation usually begins with senior guards and team co-captains Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney, who combine to form arguably the best back court in the Big Sky Conference.
• Both players can play at point and shooting guard and Coach Katz uses them in both roles. They are team co-captains for the second straight year.
• Last year, McKinney became the first player in school history to be unanimously selected first team all-Big Sky, and then became the first player in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.) to be selected all-district when he was named second team all-District 6.
• Garrity has been named honorable mention all-Big Sky all three years with the Hornets, and was the league's freshman of the year in 2012. He is the only Hornet to receive all-league recognition more than two times since the program joined the Big Sky in 1996-97.

GARRITY JUST TWO POINTS SHY OF 1,000

• Senior guard Dylan Garrity is now just two points shy of becoming the 12th player in school history to record 1,000 career points, and first since John Dickson accomplished the feat during the 2012-13 season.
• Garrity has improved his scoring average every season of his career from 8.1 ppg as a freshman to 11.6 ppg as a sophomore, and 13.2 ppg last season.
• Garrity, who scored 395 points a season ago, needs just 315 points to crack into the program's top five. Dickson is currently fifth with 1,313 career points.
• Only five players have reached 1,000 points during the program's Div. I era, comprised of Dickson, Loren Leath, Damond Edwards, Alex Bausley and Michael Boyd.

MORE ON McKINNEY

• Senior guard Mikh McKinney, who missed the first game of the season, is averaging 16.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting .619 from the field, .500 from the 3-point line and .692 from the free throw line.
• McKinney scored a game-high 22 points in the Hornets' 70-69 win at UC Riverside, including eight of the Hornets' final 10 points of the game. He tacked on 22 more points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field on Tuesday night against Bristol.
• After transferring from Ohlone JC prior to his sophomore season, McKinney averaged 12.3 ppg in '12-13 and 16.6 ppg last year. He is just 79 points shy of 1,000.

MILLS OFF TO A NICE START

• After being held to zero points in the season opener at Gonzaga, senior forward Zach Mills is averaging 9.5 points and 6.3 rebounds over the last four games.
• During that four-game stretch, he is shooting .708 (17-24) from the field. Overall, he is shooting .630 from the floor this year, the fourth best mark in the Big Sky.
• Mills has grabbed at least four rebounds in all five games (including a career-high 10 vs. Bristol), and has led or tied for the team lead in rebounds three times.

THE UNDERRATED DEMPS

• One of the more unsung players on the Hornets' roster is junior swingman Cody Demps, who can guard four positions and will usually be called upon to guard the opponent's best offensive player.
• Demps has started 35 straight games dating back to last year, and is currently averaging 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals on .483 shooting this year.
• Demps leads the team in both free throws made (17) and free throws attempted (21).
• The Hornets are outscoring opponents by 53 points when Demps is on the floor, and that +53 plus/minus rating is the second best mark on the team.

NOTABLES

Junior guard Dreon Barlett is shooting .692 (9-13) from the field, and .571 (4-7) from the 3-point line. For his career, he is now shooting .433 (26-60) from distance, the best mark among any of the nine returners…a good free throw shooting team last season, the Hornets have converted on just 65.9 percent of their freebies this year, which ranks 10th in the Big Sky…sophomore center Eric Stuteville already has six blocked shots after totalling 10 blocks in 30 games last year…after beginning the season 1-for-7 from the field, senior center Alex Tiffin is shooting .818 (9-11) from the floor over the last three games.