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MEN'S HOOPS TO PLAY FIRST OF JUST TWO DECEMBER HOME GAMES ON MONDAY

MEN'S HOOPS TO PLAY FIRST OF JUST TWO DECEMBER HOME GAMES ON MONDAY

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (5-2) will play the first of just two home games during the entire month of December on Monday night against Incarnate Word (3-2). Tip-off is 7:05 p.m.
• The Hornets will look to bounce back from a 66-61 road loss at rival UC Davis in which the team had two chances to win the game late, but could not capitalize.
• After Monday's game, the Hornets will play five of their next six on the road with the lone exception a home game on Dec. 28 vs. Pacific Union.
• Sacramento State's 5-2 record ties the second best start after seven games in program history (1948-pres.). The 1985-86 squad began the year 6-1.
• With a win, the Hornets would tie for their most wins (6) prior to the start of the conference schedule since the 2005-06 team accumulated nine (last year's team also had six).
• The Hornets are 3-1 at home this year, and have won 24 of the last 28 games inside the friendly confines of the Nest.
• The Hornets had scored at least 79 points in three straight games until registering a season-low 61 points on Wednesday UC Davis.
• The Hornets have used the same starting five in each game thus far: Demps - g, Graves - g, Barlett - g, Hornsby - f, E. Stuteville - c.
• Sacramento State and Incarnate Word will be playing each other for the first time ever.
• Incarnate Word, which hails from San Antonio, is currently in its third year as a Div. I institution. The Cardinals are members of the Southland Conference.
• Incarnate Word went 18-11 last season, and qualified for the CIT postseason tournament along with Sacramento State.
• The Cardinals, who were a Div. II school until the 2013-14 academic year, have posted nine straight winning seasons under head coach Ken Burmeister.
• Incarnate Word is currently 3-2, including 3-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Both of the road losses came to high major programs Purdue (96-61) and Oklahoma (96-63).
• Sacramento State has just four non-conference games remaining on the schedule until opening Big Sky Conference play on Jan. 2 at Portland State.
• The Hornets are averaging 79.0 points per game, and among the nation's leaders, rank 22nd in assists per game (18.3 apg) and 30th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.52).

RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Free HD video streams will be provided for every home game this season via www.WatchBigSky.com. In addition, all road games played in a Big Sky venue will be streamed free on www.WatchBigSky.com.
• Like every game this year, Monday's game 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.

HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Despite posting season lows in points (61), field goal percentage (.377), 3-point field goal percentage (.280) and free throw percentage (.500), the Hornets had two chances to take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but fell at UC Davis, 66-61, on Wednesday.
• The Hornets had chances to win despite an uncharacteristic poor shooting night and an abundance of whistles going against Sacramento State. In fact, the Hornets were whistled for a season-high 25 fouls, 10 more than the Aggies.
• Three Hornets fouled out of the game in Cody Demps, Justin Strings and Eric Stuteville.
• Still, the Hornets were able to claw their way back from a season-high 13-point deficit (46-33) with 11:59 to play. Sacramento State went on a 28-15 run spanning nearly 11 minutes of game clock to tie the game at 61-61 with 1:12 remaining.
• Fueling the run were three underclassmen in sophomores Marcus Graves and Strings and true freshman Jeff Wu. Each player scored eight points during the run.
• An offensive rebound from Neal Monson and subsequent free throw gave the Aggies a 62-61 lead with 49 seconds left. UC Davis grabbed another offensive board on Monson's miss of the second free throw and retook possession. However, a sprawling Wu came up with a steal and batted the ball to Graves who raced up the floor for what looked like a good opportunity for the Hornets to take the lead. Graves' contested layup missed, and Nick Hornsby's off-balance putback also missed.
Dreon Barlett had a good look at a 3-pointer to tie the game with seven seconds left, but his shot missed and UC Davis rebounded and added two more free throws.

OFFENSE AVERAGING NEARLY 80 POINTS PER GAME

• Despite putting up a season-low 61 points at UC Davis, Sacramento State's offense is still averaging 79.0 points per game, the fourth best mark in the 12-team Big Sky Conference.
• The Hornets have scored at least 77 points in all but two games, including the 66-63 win at Arizona State, and 66-61 road loss at UC Davis.
• During the Div. I era (1991-pres.), the Hornets have never averaged more than 75.8 points per game in any season, and haven't averaged more than 71.0 points since 2006-07.
• All five starters are averaging better than seven points per game, including Marcus Graves (14.7 ppg), Cody Demps (14.1 ppg) and Justin Strings (12.4 ppg).

HORNETS WIN DESPITE THREE LARGE 2ND HALF DEFICITS

• Of Sacramento State's five 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).

BEING SMART WITH THE BALL

• Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky in assists (18.3 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.5), as well as second in turnover margin (+2.29).
• The Hornets are now 22nd in the nation in assists per game and have 128 assists on 201 made buckets (assists on 64 percent of converted field goals).
• Amazingly, the Hornets' back court of Cody Demps (5.9 apg) and Marcus Graves (5.4 apg) are first and second, respectively, in the Big Sky in assists per game.
• Sacramento State has committed 10 turnovers or less in four games this season, and both  Graves (1st; +2.4) and Demps (4th; +2.3) rank among the Big Sky's top four in A/TO ratio.

CONTINUITY IN THE STARTING LINEUP

• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has used the same starting lineup in all seven games, consisting of guards Cody Demps, Marcus Graves and Dreon Barlett, forward Nick Hornsby and center Eric Stuteville.
• Three of those players have long starting streaks. Demps has started 70 straight games dating back to his sophomore season, Stuteville has started 38 of the last 40 games, and Hornsby has started 36 of the last 39 games.

PRODUCTION FROM THE BENCH

• Sacramento State has gotten nice production from the bench this season, as reserves are averaging 25.6 points per game.
• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has primarily used 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 12.4 points on .647 shooting (33-51) from the field.
• Sacramento State has received at least 28 points from its bench in four of the seven games thus far, including 35 points at Seattle, 30 at UC Davis and 28 vs. South Dakota.

HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 37-10 (.787 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 24 of their last 28 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 10 home games (excluding exhibition) have sold out, with the lone exceptions coming against Holy Names, South Dakota and Pacific.

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).
• 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.

STRINGS SHOOTING LIGHTS OUT

• Sophomore forward Justin Strings did not play much last year, but has taken full advantage of his increased playing time this season.
• Currently the team's sixth man, Strings is third on the team with 12.4 points per game while also pulling 4.7 boards per contest.
• He is shooting a very proficient .647 (33-of-51) from the field and .478 (11-of-23) from the 3-point line, marks that rank third and sixth, respectively, in the Big Sky. He did not even attempt a 3-pointers in 25 games last season.
• Strings creates matchup problems as the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward can score underneath and on the perimeter. He has scored at least 13 points in all but two games, including a season-high 17 points vs. South Dakota, and 16 at UC Davis.

FROM AVERAGING 1.2 PPG TO THE TEAM'S LEADING SCORER

• Like Justin Strings, sophomore Marcus Graves is making the most of increased playing time this year. Graves has already received National Mid-Major Player of the Week and Big Sky Player of the Week honors this season.
• He is averaging 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.4 steals and has a +2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio in a team-high 34.6 minutes per game. This comes after Graves averaged just 1.2 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 5.3 minutes in 13 games last year as a freshman.
• Graves, who has scored 13 points or better in all but two games, had eight steals in the win over Pacific, tying for the second-best single-game mark in school history.
• Graves played behind longtime starters Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity last year.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SECOND HALF

• Sacramento State is outscoring the opposition by an average of 6.1 points in the second half this season. The Hornets are outscoring teams by just 2.0 points in the first half.
• The Hornets have outscored their opponents in the second half in all but two games.
• Sacramento State is 2-0 when leading with 10 minutes to play, and 3-0 when leading with five minutes to play. Perhaps even more impressive, the Hornets are 2-1 when trailing with 10 minutes left, and 2-2 when trailing with five minutes remaining.

DEMPS STUFFING THE STAT SHEET

• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has produced an impressive stat line of 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting .427 (35-82) from the field, .389 (7-18) from 3-point line and .667 (22-33) from the FT line.
• The best defender on the team, Demps has played four positions during his career with the Hornets, and has received the majority of this year's minutes at point guard.
• The quiet leader has started 70 straight games dating back to his sophomore season.
• Demps ranks among the Big Sky's top 12 players in six different categories, including first in assists and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3).

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby has at least eight points and seven rebounds in all but one game, including his first career double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) at UC Davis.
• Center Eric Stuteville had shot at least .556 from the field in four straight games until going 2-for-6 at UC Davis. He is now seventh in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (.568).
• Freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting (all in the second half) at UC Davis.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett, who has played in 76 straight games, has attempted 40 shots this year, 35 of which have from the 3-point line. For his career, he is now shooting .434 (56-129) from distance, the third best mark in program history among players with 50 makes.