MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS CONFERENCE TITLE SATURDAY AT NORTHERN ARIZONA

MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS CONFERENCE TITLE SATURDAY AT NORTHERN ARIZONA

Sacramento State Game Notes - pdf
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Entering the final game of the regular season, Sacramento State (19-9, 13-4) will have its second opportunity to clinch the program's first-ever Big Sky Conference title on Saturday afternoon at Northern Arizona (17-13, 12-5).
• The Hornets squandered their first opportunity to win the league championship on Thursday night after falling at Southern Utah, 69-65.
• Currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Sky standings with Eastern Washington (13-4) and Montana (13-4), the Hornets hold the tiebreakers over both teams should they finish in a tie with one or both schools.
• Sacramento State could also clinch a league title with a loss as long as Montana loses at Montana State AND Eastern Washington loses at Weber State. That would create a four-way tie for first with NAU, and the Hornets own the tiebreaker in that scenario.
• Not only are the Hornets seeking their first Big Sky title since joining the league in 1996, the team is also looking to win its first conference championship since 1977 when the team was a member of the Far Western Conference.
• Should the Hornets win Saturday, Sacramento State would host the Big Sky Tournament on March 12-14 on campus at the WELL, which is a 151,000 square foot recreation and wellness center that opened in 2010 and has 22,000 members.
• Currently ranked 14th in the nation in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major poll, the Hornets' 19 victories are the third most in program history.
• At 19-9, Sacramento State has its second best record after 28 games in program history (1948-pres.), trailing only the 1987-88 squad's 22-6 record.
• The 13 Big Sky wins are the most ever, and no Hornet squad in program history (regardless of conference) had ever won 13 league games.
• What makes the Hornets' record so remarkable is, entering the year, the Hornets had just three winning seasons in the last 38 years, and zero since joining Div. I in 1991.
• Northern Arizona has won nine of its last 11 games, and is 10-2 at home this season, including 7-1 against Big Sky opposition at the Walkup Skydome.
• The Hornets defeated NAU in both teams' first Big Sky game of the season by a 78-73 score at the Nest on New Year's Day.
• In a series which dates back to the 1991-92 season, Sacramento State is 12-33 all-time against Northern Arizona. That includes a 2-20 record in Flagstaff.
• The Hornets have lost 10 straight games in Flagstaff. The last road win for Sacramento State on NAU's home floor came in an 87-86 victory on Feb. 26, 2005.

SHOULD THE HORNETS WIN ON SATURDAY....

• The Hornets would win their first conference title since 1977, and just the sixth conference championship in school history (1959, 1962, 1970, 1972, 1977).
• Sacramento State would win 20 games for just the third time in school history, joining the 1987-88 squad (22-8), and the 1961-62 team (21-10).
• The Hornets would clinch at least a spot in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) by virtue of winning the Big Sky's regular season title. The last postseason appearance for the Hornets came at the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament.
• The Hornets' potential 20-9 record would be the second best in school history (the 1987-88 squad owns the best mark after 29 games at 22-7).
• The Hornets would win their seventh road game, tied for most in the Div. I era.

A LOOK AT THE LAST MEETING VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

• In a game which lasted over two hours, featured 46 combined fouls, 60 free throw attempts and just 14 turnovers, it was the Hornets who shot their way to a 78-73 home win vs. Northern Arizona on New Year's Day.
• The Hornets shot .510 (26-51) from the field, .692 (9-13) from the 3-point line and .773 (17-22) from the free throw line. That included the team connecting on 7-of-8 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Dylan Garrity had a game-high 26 points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field, 5-of-7 from the 3-point line and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
• After NAU closed to within, 70-68, Mikh McKinney made perhaps the biggest shot of the evening, burying a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put the Hornets up, 73-68, with 1:46 remaining. The Lumberjacks cut the deficit to four points at the 24-second and nine-second marks of the game, but could not make it a one-possession game.

TV/RADIO/VIDEO STREAM

• Saturday's game will be televised live on both FCS Arizona and FCS Atlantic.
• The game will also be streamed live and free via www.WatchBigSky.com.
• Like every game this year, Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on KTKZ 1380 AM with 18th-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• 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 will be provided by Northern Arizona's website at nauathletics.com.

A PROFICIENT SHOOTING TEAM FROM EVERYWHERE

• Sacramento State is one of just six teams in the nation to rank among the top 15 squads in both field goal percentage (15th, .484) and 3-point percentage (8th, .402).
• In addition, the team is 35th in the nation in free throw percentage (.734).
• The Hornets have shot at least .500 from the field on 12 occasions this year, and are 11-1 in those games. In addition, the Hornets have shot better than .590 four times.
• The program record for single-season field goal percentage is .491 (1985-86), and 3-point field goal percentage is .418 (1987-88).

SEEKING FIFTH NCAA TOURNEY APPEARANCE, FIRST IN DIV. I

• The Hornets will be seeking their first NCAA Div. I Tournament appearance.
• The program did qualify for the NCAA Div. II Tournament on four occasions (1959, 1962, 1970, 1988). In fact, the Hornets finished as the national runner-up in 1962.
• Since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991, the closest the Hornets have come to the NCAA Tournament was Big Sky Tourney semifinal appearances in 2003 and 2006.

GETTING BETTER ON THE ROAD

• While a 6-8 record on the road is hardly anything to brag about, its a pretty big deal at Sacramento State, where road wins have been few and far between in the Div. I era.
• Six road wins are tied for the second best mark since the Hornets joined the Div. I ranks in 1991-92 (the 2005-06 squad won seven; 2002-03 won six).
• The Hornets entered the season with....brace yourself....a 41-282 road record (.127 winning percentage) since joining the Div. I ranks.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES

• The Hornets are 5-1 in games decided by three points or less, 7-3 in games decided by five points or less, and 11-3 in games decided by single digits.
• Of the Hornets' 13 conference wins, nine have come by eight points or less.

LEAN YEARS NOW IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

• To put the Hornets' 19-9 and 13-4 records into context, one has to understand how far the program has come this season after some dubious years in the Div. I era.
• Since joining the Div. I ranks prior to the 1991-92 season, the Hornets had never finished with an overall record above .500.
• Prior to this season, Sacramento State's overall record in the Div. I era was 189-475 (.269 winning percentage), and 86-211 (.266) in Big Sky Conference play.
• At one point, the Hornets lost 34 straight games, from 1997 until 1999.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL

• The Hornets' 313 turnovers are the 22nd best mark in the nation, and the team's average of 9.6 turnovers per game in conference play is easily the best mark in the Big Sky.
• The Hornets have committed seven turnovers or less in four of the last five games.
• Sacramento State's +1.29 assist-to-turnover ratio is the 38th best mark in the nation.

EIGHT-MAN ROTATION

• Head coach Brian Katz has essentially used an eight-man rotation a good portion of the season, featuring guards Mikh McKinney, Dylan Garrity, Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett, forwards Nick Hornsby, Zach Mills and Alex Tiffin, and center Eric Stuteville.
• Katz has used the same starting lineup in 26 of 28 games thus far, consisting of Garrity and McKinney at guard, Demps at swingman, Hornsby at forward, and Stuteville at center. That lineup has produced a 19-7 record this year.

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

• During the fall semester, the Hornets posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.150, the best mark for men's basketball in school history.
• Of the 21 Hornets that have expired their eligibility under Katz, 19 have graduated.

TWO 1,000 POINT SCORERS ON THE SAME SQUAD

• Earlier this season, senior guards Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney became the 12th and 13th players, respectively, in school history to score 1,000 career points.
• The two are currently within 46 points of each other as McKinney is fifth in school history with 1,367 points and Garrity is sixth with 1,321 points.
• Together, they became just the sixth and seventh players to reach 1,000 points during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.).

GARRITY THE NEW ASSISTS KING AT SACRAMENTO STATE

• With 520 career assists, senior guard Dylan Garrity is Sacramento State's all-time leader, surpassing the previous mark of 501, set by DaShawn Freeman (2002-06).
• In addition, Garrity is sixth in Big Sky history in that category.
• Garrity, who has become more of a scorer than a distributor during his career, had 193 assists as a freshman, 143 as a sophomore, 107 as a junior, and 77 this season.
• Garrity has become a long range marksman, currently shooting better than 40 percent from distance for the third straight season.
• His career 3-point percentage of .420 (210-500) is the 4th best mark in school history.
• He has raised his scoring average every year of his career, from 8.1 ppg as a freshman, to 11.6 ppg, 13.2 ppg, and currently 13.4 ppg this year.

McKINNEY THE FAVORITE FOR BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE YEAR

• Senior guard Mikh McKinney has been incredible this season, averaging 19.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game while shooting .515 (184-357) from the field, .413 (52-126) from the 3-point line and .780 (92-118) from the free throw line. He is also a team-best +127 in plus/minus ratio.
• He became the first player in school history to be named to the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List. He is one of two players from the Big Sky (Tyler Harvey).
• He has won Big Sky Player of the Week honors four times this season.
• Amazingly, he ranks among the nation's top 70 players in 10 different categories, including seventh in steals per game, 19th in minutes per game (36.9), 31st in points per game, 42nd in total field goals made and 49th in assists per game.
• Perhaps the most impressive stat from his line is the field goal percentage (.515), which is the sixth best mark in the nation among guards.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top three players in five categories; first in steals and minutes, second in scoring, and third in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3).
• Has scored at least 11 points in 25 straight games, and has gone over the 20-point mark on 12 occasions. McKinney has scored in double figures in 71 career games.
• Has started all 86 games in which he's played in a Sacramento State uniform.

DEMPS PLAYING AT A HIGH LEVEL IN CONFERENCE PLAY

• Though guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity get a lot of pub, opponents can't overlook the third part of the Hornets' three-guard attack in junior Cody Demps.
• After averaging 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on .391 shooting in non-conference play, Demps has ramped those numbers up to 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists on .542 shooting (65-120) in Big Sky play.
• In league play, he ranks among the Big Sky's top 12 players in seven categories, including 4th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.5), T-7th in assists, 8th in minutes (34.5), 9th in free throw percentage (.803), 10th in field goal percentage, and 12th in rebounding.
• Demps is the Hornets' best defender, and one of the best defensive players in the Big Sky Conference.