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MEN'S HOOPS OPENS HOME TOURNEY SATURDAY VS. SOUTH DAKOTA AT 3:30 PM

MEN'S HOOPS OPENS HOME TOURNEY SATURDAY VS. SOUTH DAKOTA AT 3:30 PM

Sacramento State Game Notes (23 pages) - pdf
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME/TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

• Fresh off a win Tuesday night against rival UC Davis, the Hornets (4-0) will host the two-day, four-team Sacramento State Invitational this Saturday and Sunday.
• The tournament, which features two games on Saturday and two on Sunday inside the Nest, includes Sacramento State, Eastern Washington, Pacific and South Dakota.
• This marks the first men's basketball tournament that Sacramento State has hosted in 20 years. The last came during the 1995-96 season when Sacramento State played George Washington and Old Dominion at Arco Arena.
• The Hornets open tournament play on Saturday vs. South Dakota at 3:35 p.m., followed by Pacific and Eastern Washington at 6:35 p.m. On Sunday, Eastern Washington and South Dakota play at 2:35 p.m., followed by the Hornets and Pacific at 5:35 p.m.
• Eastern Washington will host the tournament next season.
• On Saturday, the Hornets will attempt to become the first team in men's basketball program history (1948-pres.) to begin a season with five consecutive wins.
• Currently, the Hornets are one of just two teams that ever started the season 4-0, as the 1999-00 squad accomplished the feat.
• Sacramento State is 2-0 on its season-long four-game homestand, including a 40-point win in the home opener vs. Holy Names and Tuesday's 84-79 victory over UC Davis.
• The Hornets have won 15 of their last 17 games inside the Nest dating back to last year. That includes a 13-2 mark inside the friendly confines last season, tying for the most single-season home wins in school history.
• Sacramento State's raucous, standing-room only crowd of 1,472 against UC Davis was 460 spectators over the Nest's capacity of 1,012.
• South Dakota (2-3), which plays in the Summit League, and Sacramento State have never faced one another. The Coyotes have defeated CSUN and South Dakota Mines, and have lost to Kansas State, Wright State and Northern Illinois.
• The Hornets are coming off a season in which the team went 21-12 overall and 13-5 in the Big Sky while securing its first overall record above .500 in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), first postseason appearance in the Div. I era, and first postseason win in 53 years.

RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Free HD video streams will be provided for every home game this season, and every game of this weekend's tournament, via www.WatchBigSky.com. In addition, all road games played in a Big Sky venue will be streamed free on www.WatchBigSky.com.
Click here to see this weekend's tournament home page, which includes the schedule, links to multimedia options, ticket prices and more.
• Every game this year will be broadcast live on KTKZ 1380 AM The Answer with 19th-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• Fans outside the Sacramento area can listen to every game via www.hornetsports.com.

RECAP OF THE UC DAVIS VICTORY

• Five Hornets scored in double figures, led by Cody Demps' career-high tying 22 points, as Sacramento State knocked off UC Davis, 84-79, on Tuesday at the Nest.
• Sixteen of Demps' 22 points came in the second half, as the fourth-year senior buried seven free throws in the final two minutes to help the Hornets preserve the lead.
• In a tight and highly entertaining game which featured eight ties and 11 lead changes, the Hornets led the final 3:55 and scored on six of their final eight possessions.
• UC Davis had a chance to tie the game late with a 3-pointer, but Marcus Graves came up with a steal on the Aggies' Darius Graham with six seconds to go. Graves buried two subsequent free throws to put the game away.
• The Hornets' largest lead of the game was 10 points (38-28) at the 3:18 mark of the first half, but the Aggies immediately responded by going on a 20-2 run.
• By the time Nolan Berry buried a 3-pointer with 16:41 left in the game, UC Davis held its largest lead at 48-40. However, the Hornets eventually tied the game with 11:31 remaining. Neither team led by more than five points the rest of the way, as the Hornets held five-point advantages at the 0:48 and 0:32 second marks of the contest.
• Sacramento State also forced 19 turnovers while committing just six of its own. That led to a huge 22-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
• Joining Demps in double figures for the Hornets were Graves (14 points), Justin Strings (14), Dreon Barlett (11) and Eric Stuteville (10).

HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 36-9 (.800 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 23 of their last 26 home games.
• Sacramento State went 13-2 at home last season, including a nine-game home winning streak. They were the lone team in the Big Sky to go undefeated at home in league play (9-0).
• Dating back to last year, seven of the last eight home games (excluding exhibition) have sold out, with the lone exception coming in the win over non-Div. I opponent Holy Names.

HORNETS WIN DESPITE THREE LARGE 2ND HALF DEFICITS

• Of Sacramento State's four wins this season, three have come despite the Hornets trailing by eight points or more in the second half.
• That includes a 10-point deficit at Arizona State (11:37 to play), nine points at Seattle (15:16 to play), and eight points vs. UC Davis (16:41 to play).
• Sacramento State has outscored the opposition by 9.5 points in the second half.

MAKING THE CLUTCH PLAYS LATE

• During the last five minutes of games this season, Sacramento State is shooting a gaudy .762 (16-21) from the field, .625 (5-8) from the 3-point line and has buried 25 free throws.
• The Hornets are averaging 15.5 points per game during the last five minutes, and are outscoring the opposition over that span by a 62-45 margin.
• In addition, the Hornets are holding opponents to .400 shooting from the field (1-of-11 from the 3-point line) and have five steals and five blocked shots during the last five minutes.

PRODUCTION FROM THE BENCH

• Sacramento State has gotten nice production from the bench this season, as reserves are averaging 26.5 points per game.
• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has primarily been using a rotation of 10 players, the most depth for the program in recent memory.
• Leading the way has been sixth-man Justin Strings who is third on the team averaging 11.5 points on .679 shooting (19-28) from the field. Freshman Jeff Wu is averaging 5.5 ppg.
• Hornet reserves have outscored the opponent's bench in three straight games, including a 35-16 edge in Sacramento State's first-ever win at Seattle.

COMING OFF A RECORD-BREAKING SEASON

• Sacramento State finished the 2014-15 season with a 21-12 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference. Prior to last season, the Hornets had never finished with an overall record above .500 since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.
• The 21 victories were tied for the second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference wins were the most in school history (regardless of conference). All of this from a program that had just three winning seasons the previous 38 years.
• The Hornets advanced to the postseason for the first time in the Div. I era, and won at Portland in the first round of the CIT, the program's first postseason win in 53 years.

IMPROVEMENT EVERY YEAR UNDER COACH KATZ

• Sacramento State has improved its conference record every year since head coach Brian Katz took over the program in 2008-09, including last year's 13-5 mark.
• Last year, Coach Katz was named as CollegeInsider.com's National Mid-Major Coach of the Year, District 6 Coach of the Year and Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year.
• A graduate of Sacramento State, Coach Katz recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the helm of the program through at least the 2019-20 season.

GETTING IT DONE ON BOTH ENDS OF THE FLOOR

• Sacramento State is currently the only team in the Big Sky to rank among the top five teams in both scoring offense (4th; 80.8 ppg) and scoring defense (3rd; 65.8 ppg).
• The Hornets are shooting .477 from the field and have 73 assists on 114 made buckets, good for 18.3 assists per game, tops in the Big Sky and 31st in the nation.
• The defense is holding opponents to .375 shooting from the field and a miniscule .221 (21-of-95) from the 3-point line, the fourth best mark in the nation.
• Sacramento State also leads the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.4) and blocked shots (5.0 bpg), and has limited three of four opponents to 65 points or less.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

• Sophomore Marcus Graves, who received Big Sky Player of the Week and National Mid-Major Player of the Week honors during the first week, is averaging 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.3 steals, has a 2.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is shooting .490.
• While the Hornet coaching staff and teammates have not been surprised by that output, many observers have been....Graves averaged just 1.2 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 5.3 minutes in 13 games last year as a true freshman.
• Graves is the only Hornet to score in double figures in all four games, and has at least 13 points in each of those contests, including 20 at Arizona State and 24 at Seattle.
• The reason for last year's lack of playing time is he played behind a four-year starter (Dylan Garrity) and three-year starter (Mikh McKinney) at the guard spot.

HORNETS RETURN 10 PLAYERS, INCLUDING 3 STARTERS

• Though the Hornets lost two of the best players in program history in guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity, the Hornets still return 10 players from last season, including three starters in guard Cody Demps, center Eric Stuteville and forward Nick Hornsby.
• All 10 returners have at least one year of playing experience in a Sacramento State uniform, including a pair of fourth-year seniors (Demps, guard Dreon Barlett) and three third-year juniors (Hornsby, Stuteville, guard Trevis Jackson).
• The Hornets were selected to finish in a tie for fourth out of 12 teams in the Big Sky preseason media poll, but were selected just 10th in the coaches poll.

COMING UP BIG AT THE FREE THROW LINE AGAINST DAVIS

• Sacramento State entered the UC Davis game shooting just .571 from the free throw line, but laid those shooting woes to rest by connecting on .824 (28-of-34) vs. the Aggies.
• That included shooting 9-of-12 from the line over the final 1:47 to put the game away.
• The Hornets were 36th in the nation in free throw percentage (.736) last season, making the early struggles at the line surprising.

STRINGS ON FIRE

• Like Marcus Graves, sophomore forward Justin Strings did not play much last year, but has taken full advantage of his increased playing time this season.
• As the team's sixth man this year, he is shooting a blistering .679 (19-of-28) from the field, and has connected on 10 straight field goal attempts spanning the last two games. Many of those makes were from the perimeter, including three 3-pointers over that stretch.
• He has scored at least 13 points in three straight games and is third on the team with 11.5 ppg after never scoring more than six points in any game as a true freshman.
• In addition, he has grabbed at least five rebounds in every game, and is shooting .500 (5-10) from the 3-point line and 1.000 (3-3) from the free throw line.
• Strings (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) grew an inch and added 25 pounds in the last year.

DEMPS THE QUIET LEADER

• Fourth-year senior Cody Demps, who has started 67 straight games dating back to his sophomore season, was anointed a team co-captain this year.
• The best defender on the team, Demps, who can play four positions, has been running the point for the first time of his career. He is currently averaging 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 30.5 minutes per game.
• The quiet leader was the team's third leading scorer last year at 9.8 ppg.
• Demps ranks among the Big Sky's top 15 players in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocked shots (0.8), assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.7) and offensive rebounds (2.3)

HORNET NOTABLES

• Junior Nick Hornsby, the Hornets' most vocal player, has a team-high +51 plus/minus ratio. The Hornets have outscored the opposition, 236-185, when he is on the floor.
• Junior center Eric Stuteville is averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds on .647 shooting (11-of-17) from the field over the last two games.  
• Freshman Jeff Wu is the first men's hoops player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett, who has played in 73 straight games, is shooting .438 (7-16) from the 3-point line this year, and .436 (48-110) during his career.
• The same starting five (Graves, Demps, Barlett, Hornsby, E. Stuteville) in every game.