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MEN'S BASKETBALL WRAPS UP HOMESTAND SATURDAY NIGHT VS. PORTLAND STATE

MEN'S BASKETBALL WRAPS UP HOMESTAND SATURDAY NIGHT VS. PORTLAND STATE

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (8-8, 1-4) wraps up a three-game homestand on Saturday evening against Portland State (6-10, 2-3) at 7 p.m. inside the Nest.
• The two teams are playing for the second time this year, with the Vikings winning in Portland, 76-68, on Jan. 2 in the Big Sky opener for both teams.
• Saturday is Future Hornet Kids Club Kids Day as free men's basketball team posters will be given to fans, and Hornet players will sign autographs after the game.
• The Hornets had won 11 straight regular season home games against Big Sky opposition before falling at home to Weber State last Saturday, 85-74. That streak had been the longest in the Big Sky among the league's 12 current teams.
• Sacramento State is 0-5 in Saturday games this year, and a combined 8-3 on every other day of the week.
• The Hornets have played each of the last four games without team co-captain and fourth-year senior guard Cody Demps, who re-aggravated the injury early in the game at Portland State. Demps is questionable to play on Saturday night.
• Sacramento State has played six of the last seven games without a starter due to injury, and the team is 2-5 over that span.
• The Hornets are 6-2 at home this year and 40-11 inside the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season.
• This season marks both Sacramento State and Portland State's 20th year in the Big Sky as the programs joined the league together in 1996-97.
• The Hornets' top two scorers are sophomores in forward Justin Strings (14.0 ppg) and guard Marcus Graves (13.4 ppg). In fact, an underclassman (Graves, Strings or freshman Jeff Wu) has led the team in scoring in eight of 16 games this season.
• Sacramento State is 15-27 all-time against Portland State, but has won four of the last five meetings between the two teams. The Hornets had won four straight against the Vikings until PSU's 76-68 win in Portland to open conference play.
• The Hornets are 11-9 against the Vikings in Sacramento, including a 64-60 victory at the Nest last season. Each of the last four meetings between the two teams inside the Nest have been decided by four points or less.
• Like Sacramento State, the Vikings haven't played since last Saturday (a 73-70 home loss to Idaho State). PSU is 2-6 on the road, including a 77-70 win at Montana State.

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.
• 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; 85-74 LOSS TO WEBER STATE

• Despite 23 points apiece from sophomores Justin Strings and Marcus Graves, the Hornets could not withstand a barrage of 3-pointers from Weber State in an 85-74 Wildcat victory over Sacramento State last Saturday at the Nest.
• Weber State buried 11-of-22 (.500) attempts from the 3-point line while the Hornets went just 2-for-10 from distance. That proved to be the difference in the game as the Hornets converted one less field goal than the Wildcats while burying the same amount of free throws (18).
• Sacramento State was proficient from the field (.482), but Weber State knocked down 57 percent of its field goal opportunities (28-of-49), including the 11 triples.
• The Wildcats, who jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the contest, led for 37:45 of game clock, and held at least a six-point advantage the entire second half.
• Sacramento State cut a 16-point deficit (71-55) with 6:36 left down to six points (76-70) on a Jeff Wu 3-pointer with 3:11 remaining, but the Wildcats went 7-for-9 from the free throw line over the final three minutes to put the game away.
• Both teams finished with nearly the same amount of rebounds (WSU 30, SAC 29), and the Wildcats outscored the Hornets in points off turnovers by a healthy margin (21-14).

HOLDING SERVE AT THE NEST

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 40-11 (.784 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 27 of the last 32 home games.
• Sacramento State had won 11 straight regular season home games against Big Sky opposition until falling to first-place Weber State last Saturday by an 84-75 score.
• The Hornets are 6-2 at home this season, outscoring opponents by 9.9 points per game.
• Five Hornets are averaging better than nine points this year at home - Cody Demps 15.8, Justin Strings 15.4, Marcus Graves 14.4, Eric Stuteville 9.8, Dreon Barlett 9.4.

ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER RATIO TAKES A HIT

• Part of the reason for the Hornets' recent lack of success has been a declining assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin, something the Hornets excelled during non-conference play.
• In fact, Sacramento State was at or near the top of the conference in both categories in non-league play, posting a +1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio and a +1.2 turnover margin.
• However, in conference play, Sacramento State is last among 12 Big Sky teams in turnover margin (-2.80) and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+0.8).
• Sacramento State has committed at least 12 turnovers in four of its last five games after doing so four times during the first 11 games of the season. That included a season-worst 17 turnovers in the Hornets' home win against Idaho State.

FIVE LOSSES THAT COULD HAVE GONE EITHER WAY

• 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 4.6 blocked shots per game ranks first in the 12-team Big Sky, nearly 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 15 in blocked shots, comprised of Eric Stuteville (1st; 2.1 bpg), Nick Hornsby (9th; 0.9 bpg) and Justin Strings (14th; 0.7 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in nine games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .413 against the Hornets this year (second best in the Big Sky).

THE IMPORTANCE OF ERIC STUTEVILLE

• Plus/minus ratio is a statistic used to determine how well a team does with a particular player on the floor, and showcases how valuable center Eric Stuteville has been this season.
• Stuteville is currently a +64 (+4.00 per game), meaning the Hornets are outscoring the opposition by 64 points when he is on the floor.
• The next best Hornet in terms of plus/minus if Jeff Wu at +41.
• Including his career-high 19 points at Stanford, the third-year junior is averaging 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocked shots and is shooting .563 (63-112) from the field.
• The local product from Orangevale is the conference's best shot blocker at 2.1 per game, tied for the 39th best mark in the nation. His field goal percentage of .563 is sixth best in the league.

INJURIES BITING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played six of the last seven games without an injured starter, and has posted a 2-5 record during those five contests.
• Guard Dreon Barlett did not play at Stanford, forward Nick Hornsby did not suit up at Portland State and guard Cody Demps has missed the last four games with injury. Barlett and Hornsby have returned to health, but Demps remains injured. Demps re-aggravated the injury at Portland State (playing just eight minutes), and has yet to return.

SATURDAY BLUES

• Sacramento State is 0-5 when playing on Saturdays this year, and is being outscored in those games by 10.4 points per contest.
• Those losses include at home to Weber State (85-74) and South Dakota (96-90), and road losses at Portland (81-73), Portland State (76-68) and Montana (77-58).
• The Hornets' worst losses of the year were to Portland, Montana and Weber State as Sacramento State did not have chances late to make a run at winning in each of those contests.

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 BECOMES BIG SCORING THREAT

• Though just a sophomore, and a player that averaged only 0.8 points and 4.2 minutes last season, Justin Strings has made a dramatic jump in production.
• Strings, a 6-7, 235-pound forward who can play on the inside and the perimeter, has scored in double figures in 10 straight games and leads the Hornets with 14.0 ppg.
• He has started each of the last five games, leads the team with 14 double-figure efforts, has a team-high tying three double-doubles and is shooting .497 from the field.
• He has an impressive stat line of 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game.
• He has double-doubles in three of the five league games, and in Big Sky play, is averaging 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds. The rebounds are third most in the league.

GRAVES....ANOTHER SOPHOMORE MAKING HIS MARK

• A similar story to Justin Strings is another sophomore in guard Marcus Graves, who went from playing sparingly last year to the team's second leading scorer.
• After averaging 1.2 points and 5.3 minutes last season, Graves is averaging 13.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 34.2 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 11 times, including four games with at least 20 points.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top five players in minutes (3rd), assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd; +1.8), assists (5th) and steals (5th).
• He is averaging nearly five trips to the free throw line per game (4.9), and is shooting .436 from the field and .684 from the free throw line.

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 third 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 the last four games due to injury. He is questionable to play on Saturday.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby, who is sixth in the Big Sky in rebounding (7.0), eighth in steals (1.4) and ninth in blocks (0.9), has scored in double figures in three of the last four games. In the four games prior to that run, he scored a combined 12 points.
• True freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, is averaging 10.3 points and 23.5 minutes on .615 shooting (16-of-26) from the field over his last four games.
• After playing just once during the first 10 games, true freshman Grant Dressler has played in four straight games and averaging 9.3 minutes over that span.
• Sacramento State is averaging a robust 21.0 fouls per game, and a Hornet player has fouled out of a game on 17 occasions this year. The Hornets had just 13 foul outs all of last season.