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MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS BIG SKY PLAY SATURDAY AT PORTLAND STATE

MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS BIG SKY PLAY SATURDAY AT PORTLAND STATE

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• After 11 non-conference games, Sacramento State (7-4) will finally open Big Sky Conference play this Saturday on the road at Portland State (4-7) at 7:05 p.m.
• This season marks the Hornets' 20th year in the Big Sky as the program switched gears from the American West Conference and joined the Big Sky in 1996-97.
• The Hornets will play 18 Big Sky games, resulting in the normal Thursday and/or Saturday matchups. Every team will qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno.
• Sacramento State has improved its conference record every season under eighth-year head coach Brian Katz, including a 13-5 mark and No. 3 Big Sky Tourney seed last year.
• The Hornets currently have their most wins (7) when entering conference play since the 2005-06 squad had nine victories prior to the start of Big Sky play.
• The team's 7-4 record is the best after 11 games since the 2005-06 squad had the same record.
• The Hornets are 5-14 in Big Sky openers; 0-8 when those openers come on the road.
• Sacramento State is 2-3 on the road this season, but has dropped three straight away from home after beginning the year with road wins at Arizona State and Seattle.
• Sacramento State begins the conference season with three straight road games, including contests at Montana State and Montana next week.
• A win on Saturday would give the Hornets an 8-4 record, which would be the program's best mark after 12 games since the 2005-06 squad had the same record.
• Sacramento State has won four straight against Portland State, including a 3-0 record against the Vikings last year. After sweeping the season series last season, the Hornets defeated Portland State in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals by a 70-60 score.
• The four-game winning streak is currently the longest against any Big Sky team.
• The Hornets held the Vikings to exactly 60 points in all three meetings last season.
• The Hornets are just 3-17 when playing the Vikings in Portland, but have won each of the last two meetings between the two teams at the Stott Center.
• Sacramento State is coming off a record-breaking season in which it went 21-12 overall, 13-5 in the Big Sky, posted its first overall record above the .500 mark during the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and won its first postseason game in 53 years (CIT first round win).

RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Free live video streams will be provided for every game the rest of the season via www.WatchBigSky.com. All home games will be streamed in HD.
• Like every game this year, Saturday'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.
• Live stats will be available for every game the rest of the way. All multimedia links can be found next to each game on the men's basketball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.

HORNETS' LAST GAME; 78-49 VICTORY OVER PACIFIC UNION

Eric Stuteville had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Dreon Barlett added 13 points to help Sacramento State to a 78-49 win over Pacific Union on Monday.
• Pacific Union, which is an NAIA squad from Angwin, Calif., in Napa County, was playing Sacramento State for the first time ever.
• The Hornets have now won 30 straight games against non-Div. I competition, a streak which dates back to 1997.
• Sacramento State never trailed the entire way as the Hornets shot .474 (27-57) from the field, .368 (7-19) from the 3-point line and .739 (17-23) from the free throw line.
• Sacramento State, which had 12 fast break points, limited Pacific Union to .299 (20-67) shooting from the field, including just 9-for-36 in the second half.
• After outscoring Pacific Union in the first half by a 38-25 margin, Sacramento State led by double figure the first five-plus minutes of the second half until a layup from Jarron Crump got the Pioneers within, 49-41, with 13:08 to play. However, it was all Sacramento State the rest of the way, as the Hornets outscored Pacific Union, 29-8, during the final 12:52 of the contest. That included a 17-0 run that spanned 6:53 of game clock.
• The Hornets led by as many as 32 points before settling for the 29-point victory.
• Sacramento State outrebounded Pacific Union, 47-36, while outscoring the Pioneers in points in the paint (32-20) and bench points (31-16). The Hornets outscored Pacific Union in the second half by a 40-24 margin.

BLOCK PARTY

• Sacramento State's 5.3 blocked shots per game easily ranks first in the 12-team Big Sky, more than one block better than the second-place team - Portland State at 4.0 per game.
• The Hornets have three players rank among the top nine in blocked shots, comprised of Eric Stuteville (1st; 2.2 bpg), Nick Hornsby (T4th; 1.2 bpg) and Justin Strings (T9th; 0.8 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in seven games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .401 against the Hornets this year (second best in the Big Sky).

TAKE IT EASY ON THE WHISTLES

• Fouls are on the upswing across the board in the NCAA, and the Hornets have definitely felt the affect, getting whistled for a robust 21.5 fouls per game. By comparison, the Hornets were called for an average of 17.1 fouls last season.
• Sacramento State has been whistled for 34 more fouls than its opposition, or an average of 3.1 more fouls per game than the opponent.
• Amazingly, the Hornets have already seen their players foul out 12 times this year, including six different players foul out at least once. Cody Demps and Nick Hornsby have both fouled out three times through 11 games thus far.

STUTEVILLE BECOMING A FORCE

• Junior center Eric Stuteville has been a force over the last two games, averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots while shooting .636 (14-22) from the field.
• That includes a career-high 19 points in the Hornets' near upset at Stanford followed by 16 points and a career-high tying 12 rebounds and five blocks against Pacific Union.
• Dating back to his 13-point effort at Portland, Stuteville has scored in double figures in three straight games, the longest streak of his career.
• The local product from Orangevale is now easily first in the Big Sky in blocked shots (2.2 per game) and fourth in the league in field goal percentage (.605).
• He has shot at least 50 percent from the field in all but two games this season.

HORNETS WIN DESPITE THREE LARGE 2ND HALF DEFICITS

• Of Sacramento State's seven 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 at home vs. UC Davis (16:41 to play).

MOVING AND TAKING CARE OF THE BALL

• Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky in both assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.4) and turnover margin (+1.2), and second in assists (16.9 per game).
• The Hornets are 40th in the nation in assists per game, and have 186 assists on 302 made buckets (62% assisted baskets), leading to a .462 field goal percentage (4th in the Big Sky).
• The Hornets' back court of Cody Demps (1st; 5.5 apg) and Marcus Graves (5th; 4.5 apg) are the only teammates in the Big Sky to both rank among the top five in the league in assists.
• Sacramento State has committed 12 turnovers or less eight times, and both  Demps (T2nd; +2.0) and Graves (T2nd; +2.0) rank among the Big Sky's top three in assist-to-turnover ratio.

THE NEED FOR MORE REBOUNDING

• Sacramento State has failed to ourebound eight opponents, and of the three times it grabbed more boards the opposition, only once did it occur vs. a Div. I team (Arizona State).
• In the Hornets' nine games vs. a Div. I opponent, the team is being outrebounded by 5.4 boards per game. The team has not outrebounded a Div. I opponent in eight straight games.
• Second chance points have become a major concern as the Hornets are being victimized for an average of 14.0 opponent second-chance points this season.
• Overall, the Hornets are being outrebounded by 1.6 rebounds per game (9th in Big Sky).

STARTING LINEUP CONSISTENCY

• Brian Katz used the same starting lineup in 10 of 11 games, consisting of guards Cody Demps, Marcus Graves and Dreon Barlett, forward Nick Hornsby and center Eric Stuteville.
• Barlett did not play at Stanford because of injury, as Justin Strings started in his place.
• Demps has started 74 straight games dating back to his sophomore season, Stuteville has started 42 of the last 44 games, and Hornsby has started 40 of the last 43 games.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SECOND HALF

• Sacramento State is outscoring the opposition by an average of 4.9 points in the second half this season, and the team is 6-1 when leading or tied at halftime.
• Sacramento State is 4-0 when leading with 10 minutes to play, 4-0 when leading with five minutes to play and 1-0 when tied at the five-minute mark..

PRODUCTION FROM THE BENCH

• Sacramento State has gotten nice production from the bench this season, as reserves are averaging 24.2 points per game.
• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has primarily used a rotation of 10 players this season after using an eight-man rotation during the Hornets' 21-win season a year ago.
• Leading the way has been sixth-man Justin Strings who is third on the team averaging 13.4 points on .530 shooting (53-100) from the field and .408 (20-49) from 3-point range.
• True freshman guard Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I athletics scholarship, is averaging 5.5 points in 13.8 minutes played per contest.

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 signed a contract extension in September that will keep him at the helm of the program through at least the 2019-20 season.

STRINGS AND GRAVES MAKE DRAMATIC JUMPS IN PRODUCTION

• Sacramento State sophomores Marcus Graves (guard) and Justin Strings (forward) have seen dramatic jumps in production compared to a season ago.

Player - Minutes ('14-15) - Points ('14-15) - Minutes ('15-16) - Points ('15-16)
Marcus Graves - 5.3 - 1.2 - 34.8 - 13.9
Justin Strings - 4.2 - 0.8 - 26.9 - 13.4

• After scoring 16 points last season, Graves has scored at least 20 on three occasions this year and is averaging a team-high 13.9 points to go along with 3.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.4 steals per game. He is second in the Big Sky with 34.8 minutes per game.
• Strings, who grew an inch and put on 25 pounds of muscle in the last year, is averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds off the bench. After scoring 21 points all of last season, he has scored in double figures a team-best nine times this season.

DEMPS PLAYING LIKE A FOURTH-YEAR SENIOR & TEAM CAPTAIN

• Team co-captain Cody Demps has produced an impressive stat line of 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game while shooting .452 (52-115) from the field and .423 (11-26) from the 3-point line. The assists are the top mark in the Big Sky.
• Demps has played four positions during his career with the Hornets, and has assumed the point guard duties for the first time this season.
• The quiet leader has started 74 straight games dating back to his sophomore season.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby, who is tied for fourth in the Big Sky in blocks (1.2 bpg), sixth in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and 14th in steals (1.2 spg), has tallied at least eight points and seven rebounds in all but four games.
• After missing the Stanford game due to injury, guard Dreon Barlett bounced back vs. Pacific Union with 13 points (two shy of his career high), including three 3-pointers.