Text-Only Site

MEN'S HOOPS CONTINUES BIG SKY ROAD TRIP THURSDAY AT MONTANA STATE

MEN'S HOOPS CONTINUES BIG SKY ROAD TRIP THURSDAY AT MONTANA STATE

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (7-5, 0-1) will play the second leg of a three-game road trip to begin the Big Sky Conference season on Thursday when the Hornets travel to Bozeman, Mont., to take on Montana State (6-8, 1-1). Tip-off at Worthington Arena is 6:05 p.m. PST.
• After beginning the season 4-0, the Hornets have dropped five of their last eight games, including a 76-68 loss at Portland State in the Big Sky opener last Saturday.
• In that loss to Portland State, the Hornets played nearly the entire game without either of their co-captains as senior Cody Demps played just eight minutes before departing with injury and junior Nick Hornsby missed the entire game with injury.
• Both Demps and Hornsby are questionable for Thursday night's game.
• Sacramento State is 2-4 on the road this year, including four straight defeats away from home after beginning the year with road wins at Arizona State and Seattle.
• The Hornets' top two scorers are sophomores in forward Justin Strings and guard Marcus Graves, who both average 13.8 points per game.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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). That team was led by senior guards Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney, who were two of the best players in program history and both graduated last spring.
• The Hornets are 17-27 all-time against Montana State, including a 5-18 mark when the two teams meet in Bozeman.
• The Hornets and Bobcats played just once last season, a 75-59 Hornet win at the Nest.
• Sacramento State has lost seven of the last eight meetings in Bozeman, with the lone win coming in a 74-71 victory towards the end of the 2010-11 season.
• Montana State snapped a four-game losing streak with a 74-72 overtime win at Northern Arizona on Saturday. The Bobcats will be playing just their third home game on Thursday, and first since a 100-97 loss to Omaha on Dec. 6.

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, Thursday'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; 76-68 LOSS AT PORTLAND STATE

• Despite double-doubles from both Justin Strings (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Eric Stuteville (17 points, 12 rebounds), the Hornets lost on Saturday at Portland State, 76-68.
• In a game that Sacramento State never led, the Hornets eventually tied the score three different times during the later stages, the last of which came at 51-51 with 6:21 remaining on a Trevis Jackson runner.
• However, Portland State (5-7, 1-0) closed the final 5:18 on a 25-17 run, which included the Vikings burying their final seven free throw attempts spanning the last 33 seconds of the contest.
• The Hornets got off to a sluggish start, missing 12 of their first 15 shots while committing six turnovers during the first 10 minutes of the contest. Portland State took advantage, jumping out to a game-high 13-point lead (20-7) with 10:06 remaining.
• Sacramento State tied the score three different times during the final 8:02, but Portland State answered immediately with buckets on two of those occasions, including a banked 3-pointer from Isaiah Pineior with 6:55 to play.
• After Jackson's runner tied the score at 51-51 with 6:21 remaining, Portland State proceeded to shoot 7-of-11 from the field and 10-for-11 from the free throw line while forcing two steals during the last 5:18 to put the game away. The contest was at least a two-possession game the final 4:25.

BLOCK PARTY

• Sacramento State's 4.9 blocked shots per game easily ranks first in the 12-team Big Sky, over a half block better than the second-place team - Portland State at 4.3 per game.
• The Hornets have three players rank among the top 11 in blocked shots, comprised of Eric Stuteville (1st; 2.1 bpg), Nick Hornsby (4th; 1.2 bpg) and Justin Strings (T11th; 0.8 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in seven games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .400 against the Hornets this year (top mark 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 21.8 fouls per game. By comparison, the Hornets were called for an average of 17.1 fouls last season.
• Of 351 Div. I teams, the 21.8 fouls are the 301st worth mark in the nation.
• Sacramento State has been whistled for 36 more fouls than its opposition, or an average of 3.0 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 HAS BECOME A FORCE

• Junior center Eric Stuteville has been a force over the last three games, averaging 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots. He has scored at least 16 in all three games.
• That includes a career-high 19 points at Stanford, and back-to-back double-doubles against Pacific Union (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Portland State (17 points, 12 rebounds).
• Dating back to his 13-point effort at Portland, Stuteville has scored in double figures in four straight games, the longest streak of his career.
• The local product from Orangevale is now easily first in the Big Sky in blocked shots (2.1 per game) and sixth in the league in field goal percentage (.589).
• He played 33 minutes on Saturday at Portland State, a career high for minutes played.

PLAYING THE DEFENSE

• Sacramento State is holding the opposition to a .400 field goal percentage, the top mark in the Big Sky and 71st best mark in the nation.
• No Hornet opponent has shot better than .404 over the last six games, which included limiting Stanford to just a .385 mark.
• In addition, opponents are shooting just .294 from the 3-point line, easily the best mark in the Big Sky and the 21st best mark in the nation. Each of the last three opponents have shot .273 or less from beyond the 3-point arc.

CREATING GOOD LOOKS

• Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.3) and second in assists (16.1 per game).
• The Hornets are 58th in the nation in assists per game, and have 193 assists on 326 made buckets (59% assisted baskets), leading to a .457 field goal percentage (4th in the Big Sky).
• The Hornets' back court of Cody Demps (2nd; 5.1 apg) and Marcus Graves (5th; 4.4 apg) are the only teammates in the Big Sky to both rank among the top five in the league in assists.

IN A BIT OF A SHOOTING FUNK

• Although Sacramento State has a healthy .457 field goal percentage, the team has struggled from the field over the last four games.
• During that four-game span, the Hornets are shooting just .418 from the field and .319 from the 3-point line while averaging 69.8 points per game, well below their season averages of .457/.358/75.4 points per game.

STARTING LINEUP CONSISTENCY THREATENED BY INJURIES

• Brian Katz has used the same starting lineup in 10 of 12 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, and Nick Hornsby did not suit up at Portland State because of injury. In both cases, Justin Strings, who has become one of the most potent sixth men in the league, started in their place.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SECOND HALF

• Sacramento State is outscoring the opposition by an average of 4.5 points in the second half this season, and has been outscored after halftime just four times by Arizona State, South Dakota, Incarnate Word and Stanford.
• 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 22.8 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 tied for the team lead with 13.8 points per game on .522 (60-115) from the field and .396 (21-53) 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 5.2 points in 13.4 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

• Sophomores Marcus Graves (guard) and Justin Strings (forward) have seen dramatic jumps in production compared to a season ago and share the team lead in scoring. The tandem are two of just five underclassmen among the Big Sky's top 20 players in scoring.

Player - Minutes ('14-15) - Points ('14-15) - Minutes ('15-16) - Points ('15-16)
Marcus Graves - 5.3 - 1.2 - 34.8 - 13.8
Justin Strings - 4.2 - 0.8 - 27.6 - 13.8

• After scoring 16 points last season, Graves has scored at least 20 on three occasions this year and is averaging a 13.8 points to go along with 3.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 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 since last year, is averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds off the bench. After scoring 21 points all of last season, he has scored in double figures a team-best 10 times, including six straight games.

DEMPS PLAYING LIKE A FOURTH-YEAR SENIOR & TEAM CAPTAIN

• Team co-captain Cody Demps has produced an impressive stat line of 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting .448 (52-116) from the field and .423 (11-26) from the 3-point line. The assists are the second best 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 75 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 15th in steals (1.2 spg), missed his first career game due to injury when he did not suit up at Portland State last Saturday.