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MEN'S BASKETBALL FINALLY BACK AT HOME ON THURSDAY VS. IDAHO STATE

MEN'S BASKETBALL FINALLY BACK AT HOME ON THURSDAY VS. IDAHO STATE

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (7-7, 0-3) will finally play its first Big Sky Conference home game after opening the league season with three straight road games.
• The Hornets will host Idaho State (6-9, 1-2) on Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the Nest.
• Thursday's game will put an end to a brutal stretch that saw the Hornets play just two home games over a span of 45 days. During that time frame (Nov. 30-Jan. 13), the Hornets have gone just 2-6 with two home wins and six road losses.
• The Hornets have lost all three conference game on the road, and are the lone team in the Big Sky that has yet to secure a league victory.
• Sacramento State is looking to avoid its first four-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season. Dating back to last season, the Hornets have lost five straight Big Sky regular season games with each of those contests taking place on the road.
• The Hornets and Idaho are the only two teams from the 12-member Big Sky that have yet to play a home game during league play.
• Sacramento State is coming off a 77-58 loss at Montana on Saturday, the first time all season the Hornets lost a game by more than 10 points.
• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps missed both games last week with injury, snapping a streak of 75 straight starts and 104 straight games played. Demps is questionable to play Thursday against Idaho State.
• In four of the last five games, Sacramento State has played without an injured starter, and the Hornets lost each of those four contests.
• The Hornets return to the friendly confines of the Nest where the team is 5-1 this season and 39-10 dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
• Sacramento State has won 10 straight games against Big Sky opposition at home dating back to 2014, and was the only team in the league to go undefeated in conference play at home last year with a perfect 9-0 record.
• 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 (13.5 ppg) and guard Marcus Graves (12.8 ppg).
• The Hornets are 17-27 all-time against Idaho State, including a 9-12 mark when playing in Sacramento. Four of the last seven meetings in Sacramento between the two teams have been decided by one point.
• The teams played just once last season, a 62-59 Hornet win in Pocatello.
• Idaho State is 1-6 on the road this year, with the victory coming 66-65 at Portland.

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; 77-58 LOSS AT MONTANA

• Montana used a 9-2 during the final 2:37 of the first half, and cruised in the second half on the way to a 77-58 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday in Missoula.
• In a game that Montana never trailed, the Hornets were able to stay within six points or fewer during the first 17 minutes of the first half, but the Grizzlies scored nine of the half's final 11 points to go into the locker room with a 37-28 lead. Montana scored the first four points of the second half and led by double figures the final 18:13 of the game.
• The Grizzlies buried 13-of-30 (.433) shots from the 3-point line while the Hornets were just 1-for-6. The Hornets had season lows in points (58), 3-pointers made, 3-pointers attempted, 3-point percentage (.167), assists (7), steals (2) and free throw percentage (.440).
• The Hornets went just 11-for-25 from the free throw line and were outrebounded by a 42-30 margin.
Jeff Wu had a team-best 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the free throw line. Sophomore Justin Strings scored in double figures for the eighth straight game, finishing with 12 points (5-of-9 shooting) in a team-high 35 minutes.

ABUNDANCE OF CLOSE LOSSES

• Six of Sacramento State's losses have come by 10 points or less. The lone blowout loss came on Saturday at Montana.
• In five of the team's seven losses, the Hornets trailed by three points or less during the final 3:30 of the contest. Here is the breakdown of those five 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 4.1 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 (7th; 1.0 bpg) and Justin Strings (11th; 0.7 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in eight games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .408 against the Hornets this year (second 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 21.3 fouls per game. By comparison, the Hornets were called for an average of 17.1 fouls last season.
• Of 351 Div. I teams, the 21.3 fouls are the 292nd worth mark in the nation.
• Sacramento State has been whistled for 33 more fouls than its opposition, or an average of 2.4 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

• Over the last six games, junior center Eric Stuteville has scored in double figures four times, averaging 13.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while shooting .574 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 (.574).
• Stuteville's value to the team is seen in his robust +72 plus/minus rating this year. The Hornets are outscoring the opposition by 72 points when he is on the floor. The closest Hornet in terms of plus/minus is Jeff Wu and Nick Hornsby who are both at +30.

HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 39-10 (.796 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 26 of the last 30 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).
• The Hornets are 5-1 at home this season, which includes wins over the two closest Div. I programs in proximity to Sacramento (84-79 over UC Davis, 79-71 over Pacific).

INJURIES HURTING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played four of the last five games without an injured starter, and has posted an 0-4 record during those games.
• Guard Dreon Barlett did not play at Stanford, forward Nick Hornsby did not suit up at Portland State and guard Cody Demps missed both the Montana and Montana State games with injuries. Barlett and Hornsby have returned to health, but Demps remains questionable for this week's games.

SECOND CHANCE POINTS HURTING THE HORNETS

• Opponents are averaging 13.4 second-chance points against the Hornets this year, and Sacramento State has been outscored, 187-122 (13.4 - 8.7 per game).
• The Hornets have scored more than 10 second-chance points just four times all year.
• Over the last six games, Sacramento State has been outscored in second chance points by an 81-47 margin. That includes disparities of 18-5 at Portland, 20-9 at Stanford, 10-2 at Montana State and 10-4 at Montana.

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.

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)
Justin Strings - 4.2 - 0.8 - 28.7 - 13.5
Marcus Graves - 5.3 - 1.2 - 34.2 - 12.8

• 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 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He is fourth in the Big Sky with 34.2 minutes per game.
• Strings, who grew an inch and put on 25 pounds of muscle since last year, is averaging 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench. After scoring 21 points all of last season, he has scored in double figures a team-best 12 times, including eight 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 both games last week due to injury. He is questionable to play on Thursday.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby, who is seventh in the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.0 bpg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) and 13th in steals (1.3 spg), missed his first career game due to injury when he did not suit up for the Portland State game.
• True freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, has scored in double figures in two straight games. Over that two-game span, he is averaging a team-high 12.0 points on .692 (9-of-13) shooting.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett went 0-for-2 from the 3-point line on Saturday at Montana, marking the first game all year he did not convert at least one 3-ball. Prior to the Montana game, he had scored in double figures a career-high three straight games. He is averaging 1.9 3-pointers per game while shooting .431 from distance.
• After playing just once during the first 10 games, true freshman Grant Dressler has played three of the last four games, averaging 7.0 minutes per game over that span.
• Sophomore center James Herrick is averaging a team-high 0.43 rebounds per minute.
• The Hornets are the only team in the Big Sky with two players ranking among the top six in assists - Cody Demps (2nd; 5.1 apg) and Marcus Graves (6th; 4.4 apg).
• Sacramento State shot just .440 (11-of-25) from the free throw line at Montana, easily the worst free throw percentage of the season.
• The Hornets also started the 2013-14 conference season with three straight Big Sky road losses, but still finished 10-10 in league play.