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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After the Hornets posted their best season during the Div. I era, and finished just one game out of first place, Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz was named the Big Sky Conference co-Men's Basketball Coach of the Year, it was announced by the league office today.

Katz, who is in his seventh season at Sacramento State, shared the award with Eastern Washington head coach Jim Hayford. Katz becomes the first Hornet men's basketball coach to receive Big Sky Coach of the Year honors since the program joined the league in 1996, and the first Hornet coach in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) to receive the honor.

Sacramento State (19-10, 13-5) will post its first record above .500 during the Div. I era, has won its most conference games in program history (1948-pres.), has already posted the third most victories in school history, and fell just one game shy of winning its first conference title since 1977.

The Hornets, who finished in a tie for third place in the Big Sky standings, will assume the No. 3 seed at this week's Big Sky Tournament where the team will take on No. 6 seed Portland State on Thursday in the quarterfinal round. Sacramento State was the only team in the Big Sky to finish with a perfect home record in conference play (9-0), and finished the year with the program's second best winning percentage in home games (13-1, .929) in school history.

What makes Sacramento State's record even more remarkable is, entering the season, the Hornets had just three winning seasons in the last 38 years, including zero during the Div. I era. The Hornets have now improved their conference record every season of Katz's seven-year tenure with the program. In addition, this year's squad featured the program's first conference MVP (Mikh McKinney) since 1977, and the program's first player to receive all-Big Sky recognition four times (Dylan Garrity).

With one more victory, 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). In addition, the team received its first-ever ranking in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Top 25 poll where the Hornets currently rank 21st in the nation.

Not only has Katz's team performed on the hardwood, the program has also excelled in the classroom where the Hornets posted a 3.15 grade point average during the fall semester, the highest cumulative gpa in school history for the men's basketball program. In addition, of the 21 Hornets that have expired their eligibility under Coach Katz, 19 have graduated.

"This award is a tribute to our players," Katz said. "No coach has ever won an award like this without great players. I consider this a team award."

Sacramento State is one of just four teams in the nation to rank among the top 11 squads in both field goal percentage (11th, .485) and 3-point percentage (6th, .406). The Hornets have posted three different winnings streaks of at least four games this year, including a six-game winning streak from Jan. 15-31, which ranked as the longest in the Div. I era, and longest since 1988.

Among the Big Sky's 12 teams, the Hornets rank in the league's top three in field goal percentage (1st), steals (1st), assist-to-turnover ratio (1st), rebounding defense (1st), assists (2nd), turnover margin (2nd), 3-point field goal percentage (2nd), scoring defense (2nd), 3-point field goal percentage defense (2nd) and scoring margin (3rd).

Sacramento State will take on Portland State in the single-elimination Big Sky Tournament on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. PDT in Missoula, Mont. The winner of the three-day tournament (March 12-14) will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, a place the Hornets have never been since joining the Div. I ranks.