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MEN'S HOOPS WRAPS UP ROAD TRIP ON SATURDAY EVENING AT MONTANA

MEN'S HOOPS WRAPS UP ROAD TRIP ON SATURDAY EVENING AT MONTANA

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (7-6, 0-2) plays the final leg of a three-game road trip to begin the Big Sky Conference season when the Hornets travel to Missoula to take on Montana (8-6, 3-0) on Saturday evening. Tip-off at Dahlberg Arena is set for 6:05 p.m. PST.
• Sacramento State is coming off a 71-64 loss at Montana State on Thursday in which the Hornets led, 61-60, with 2:30 remaining in the game.
• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps missed the Montana State game with injury, snapping a streak of 75 straight starts and 104 straight games played.
• Demps is questionable to play on Saturday. Junior Nick Hornsby, who did not play at Portland State (injury), returned on Thursday to score 12 points in 29 minutes.
• After using the same starting lineup each of the first nine games, Sacramento State has used four different lineups over the last four games because of injuries.
• Sacramento State has lost four of its last five games with each of those four losses coming on the road. The team has dropped five straight away from home after beginning the season with road wins at Arizona State and Seattle.
• All six of the Hornets' losses have come by 10 points or less, and Sacramento State had chances late in all but one of those defeats.
• The Hornets are looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the final stages of the 2013-14 season.
• Sacramento State, which has played just two home games in the last 40 days, began the season 4-0, but has since dropped six of its last nine games.
• 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' top two scorers are sophomores in forward Justin Strings (13.6 ppg) and guard Marcus Graves (13.2 ppg).
• The Hornets are just 6-36 all-time against Montana, and snapped a 15-game losing streak against the Griz last season in a 70-69 thriller at the Nest in which the since graduated Dylan Garrity buried a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left.
• The Hornets have dropped 11 straight games against Montana in Missoula with the last win at Dahlberg coming in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals on March 8, 2003.
• Montana is currently the only team in the Big Sky with a 3-0 league record, and has won four straight games. The Grizzlies have yet to lose at home this year (6-0).

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; 71-64 LOSS AT MONTANA STATE

• Montana State used an 11-3 run over the game's final 2:26 and scored on six of its final seven possessions to defeat Sacramento State, 71-64, on Thursday evening in Bozeman.
• After a 3-pointer from Jeff Wu gave the Hornets their first lead in over 28 minutes of game clock at 61-60 with 2:48 to play, Montana State immediately answered by scoring on three straight possessions.
• A Marcus Graves 3-pointer eventually cut the deficit to a one-possession game (67-64) with 23 seconds to play, but Montana State answered with two free throws from Marcus Colbert on its next possession.
• After the Wu 3-pointer, Sacramento State converted on just one of its final five field goal attempts and scored just three points over the last 2:47 of the contest.
• The Hornets were whistled for 22 fouls, and three starters (Graves, Nick Hornsby, Eric Stuteville) all fouled out of the contest. Combine that with Cody Demps missing the game (injury), and Sacramento State was minus four starters by the game's conclusion.
• After shooting 50 percent (12-of-24) from the field in the first half while trailing just, 35-33, at halftime, Sacramento State converted just eight field goals (8-for-24, .333) in the second half and could not come up with a big bucket late.
• Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by Dreon Barlett's team-high 13 points.

CLOSE LOSSES PILING UP

• All six of Sacramento State's losses have come by 10 points or less.
• In every loss except the defeat at Portland, the Hornets trailed by three points or less during the final 3:30 of the contest. Here are some breakdowns of five of the six losses.
- 96-90 loss to South Dakota - led, 81-80, with 4:39 left/one possession game in last minute.
- 66-61 loss at UC Davis - tied, 61-61, with 1:12 left/one possession game in final minute.
- 70-60 loss at Stanford - tied, 56-56, with 5:10 remaining/trailed, 63-60, with 3:21 left.
- 76-68 loss at Portland St. - led 55-53 with 4:30 remaining.
- 71-64 loss at Montana St. - led, 61-60, with 2:30 left/one possession game in last minute.
• During the last five minutes of the five losses listed above, Sacramento State shot a combined .320 (16-50) from the field and .250 (6-24) from the 3-point line while being outscored during that stretch, 71-47. Conversely, the opposition is shooting .548 (17-31) from the field during the same time span, and made 47 trips to the free throw line.

BLOCK PARTY

• Sacramento State's 4.8 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 4.2 per game.
• The Hornets have three players ranked among the top 11 in blocked shots, comprised of Eric Stuteville (1st; 2.1 bpg), Nick Hornsby (6th; 1.1 bpg) and Justin Strings (11th; 0.8 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in seven games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .403 against the Hornets this year (tied for first 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 ridiculous 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 306th worth mark in the nation.
• Sacramento State has been whistled for 41 more fouls than its opposition, or an average of 3.2 more fouls per game than the opponent.
• Amazingly, the Hornets have already seen their players foul out 15 times this year, including six different players foul out at least once. Nick Hornsby has fouled out a team-high four times while Cody Demps and Eric Stuteville have fouled out three times.

STUTEVILLE BECOMING A FORCE

• Despite being limited to seven points in 25 foul-plagued minutes on Thursday at Montana State, junior center Eric Stuteville has been a force over the last five games.
• During that five-game span, he has scored in double figures four times and is averaging 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots while shooting nearly .600 from the floor.
• 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).
• The local product from Orangevale is easily first in the Big Sky in blocked shots (2.1 per game) and sixth in the league in field goal percentage (.585).

PLAYING THE DEFENSE

• Sacramento State is holding the opposition to a .403 field goal percentage, tied for the top mark in the Big Sky and 77th best in the nation.
• The Hornets had limited five straight opponents to .404 shooting from the field or less until Montana State shot .444 on Thursday night.
• In addition, opponents are shooting just .307 from the 3-point line, easily the best mark in the Big Sky and the 46th best mark in the nation. Seven opponents have already shot less than .275 from the 3-point line this season.

CREATING GOOD LOOKS

• Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.3) and second in assists (15.7 per game).
• The Hornets are 68th in the nation in assists per game, and have 204 assists on 346 made buckets (59% assisted baskets), leading to a .455 field goal percentage (3rd best mark in the Big Sky).
• The Hornets' back court of Cody Demps (2nd; 5.1 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.

STARTING LINEUP CONSISTENCY THWARTED BY INJURIES

Brian Katz has used the same starting lineup in 10 of 13 games, consisting of guards Cody Demps, Marcus Graves and Dreon Barlett, forward Nick Hornsby and center Eric Stuteville.
• Barlett did not play at Stanford, Hornsby did not suit up at Portland State and Demps missed the Montana State game with injuries. In all three cases, Justin Strings, who has become one of the most potent sixth men in the league, started in their place.

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 - 34.5 - 13.2
Justin Strings - 4.2 - 0.8 - 28.2 - 13.6

• After scoring 16 points last season, Graves has scored at least 20 on three occasions this year and is averaging a 13.2 points to go along with 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He is second in the Big Sky with 34.5 minutes per game.
• Strings, who grew an inch and put on 25 pounds of muscle since last year, is averaging 13.6 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 11 times, including seven straight games.

75 STRAIGHT STARTS FOR DEMPS COMES TO AN END

• 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 had started 75 straight games and played in 104 straight games until missing Thursday's game at Montana State with injury.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby, who is sixth in the Big Sky in blocks (1.1 bpg), seventh in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and 15th in steals (1.3 spg), missed his first career game due to injury when he did not suit up at Portland State last Saturday.
• True freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, scored in double figures for the third time this season with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the 3-point line at Montana State.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett has scored in double figures in a career-high three straight games and is averaging 13.0 points over that stretch while shooting .615 (8-for-13) from beyond the arc. He is now a career .440 (66-of-150) from distance.
• Sophomore Mason Stuteville did not play Thursday for the first time all year with freshman Grant Dressler taking his place in the rotation, scoring three points in six minutes.
• Sophomore center James Herrick is averaging a team-high 0.5 rebounds per minute.