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MEN'S BASKETBALL TRAVELS TO IDAHO FOR THURSDAY EVENING MATCHUP

MEN'S BASKETBALL TRAVELS TO IDAHO FOR THURSDAY EVENING MATCHUP

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• After a three-game homestand, Sacramento State (8-9, 1-5) will hit the road this week for a pair of games, beginning on Thursday evening against Idaho (12-8, 4-3). Tip-off at the Cowan Spectrum is set for 7:05 p.m.
• Both teams are dealing with injuries to key players at Sacramento State has missed starting point guard, team co-captain and fourth-year senior Cody Demps the last five games. Meanwhile, Idaho played without its two leading scorers, Perrion Callandret and Victor Sanders, in Saturday's 70-68 road loss at Montana State.
• Sacramento State has lost seven of its last nine games. The team has played without an injured starter in seven of the last eight games as injuries have hampered a team that began the year with a 4-0 record, including a season-opening win at Arizona State.
• One of those losses came on Saturday at home to Portland State, 81-63, in a game where the Vikings shot 64 percent from the field. That marked the Hornets' worst loss to a conference foe at home since falling to Northern Arizona, 63-42, nearly five years ago.
• The Hornets had won 11 straight regular season home games against conference competition prior to falling to Weber State and Portland State.
• Sacramento State already has as many conference losses (5) than it suffered all of last season when the Hornets were 21-12 overall and 13-5 in the Big Sky.
• The Hornets have dropped six straight games on the road after beginning the year with road wins at Arizona State and Seattle.
• Dating back to last season, the Hornets have dropped five straight Big Sky road games with the last victory coming at Portland State on Feb. 28, 2015.
• The Hornets' top two scorers are both sophomores in forward Justin Strings (14.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and guard Marcus Graves (13.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.3 apg).
• In a series which dates back to the 1968-69 season, Idaho is 15-2 all-time against Sacramento State, including a 9-1 mark when playing in Moscow.
• The Hornets have dropped eight straight in Moscow since its lone win there on Dec. 8, 1972 (77-65 win).
• The Hornets' 79-76 home win last year vs. Idaho snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Vandals.
• Idaho is 5-3 at home this season, and 1-1 against conference foes. Each of the Vandals' last three games have been decided by five points or less.

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.
• 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; 81-63 LOSS TO PORTLAND STATE

• Portland State shot a blistering .642 (34-of-53) from the field, and never trailed on the way to an 81-63 victory over the Hornets last Saturday at the Nest.
• The Vikings, who led by as many as 21 points, jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first 4:20 of the game, and never looked back. In fact, the Vikings led by at least eight points the final 25:21 of the contest.
• Portland State was proficient from the inside (48 points in the paint) and outside (.500, 6-of-12 from the 3-point line) in a rare blowout of Sacramento State at home.
• A convincing loss is rare inside the Nest for Sacramento State as the team had won 27 of its last 32 games inside the friendly confines prior to the game.
• After falling behind early, 19-6, the Hornets were able to claw back and get within, 19-14, on a layup from Nick Hornsby with 9:16 left in the first half.
• Sacramento State kept it close until a stretch that saw Portland State convert on 11 of its final 12 field goal attempts of the first half to go into halftime with 44-27 lead.
• The Hornets cut the deficit to eight points (58-50) with 8:03 remaining in the second half, but Portland State immediately answered with a 3-pointer from Calaen Robinson.
• Sacramento State shot a very proficient 49 percent (25-of-51) from the field, including .556 (15-of-27) in the second half, marks that will usually get the Hornets a win at home.

INJURIES STINGING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played seven of the last eight games without an injured starter, and the team has posted a 1-6 record during those seven contests.
• Guard Dreon Barlett did not play at Stanford, forward Nick Hornsby did not suit up on the road at Portland State and guard Cody Demps has missed the last five games with injury. Barlett and Hornsby have returned to health, but Demps remains injured. Demps re-aggravated his lower body injury in the conference opener at Portland State (playing just eight minutes in that game), and has yet to return.

IN NEED OF OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION

• During Big Sky play, the Hornets are averaging just 68.2 points per game, a mark which ranks last in the Big Sky. Entering league play, Sacramento State was averaging a healthy 74.7 points per contest.
• In league play, Sacramento State is shooting a proficient percentage from the floor (.462), but turnovers are way up (13.5 per game) and the team's turnover margin (-2.83 per game) is last in the Big Sky.
• In addition, Sacramento State has converted just 33 3-pointers in league, or 5.5 per game, a mark which also ranks last in the 12-team conference.
• The Hornets had been among the league's best in all these categories outside of league, but those numbers have dropped significantly in conference play. Part of the reason for this is the loss of point guard Cody Demps, who quarterbacked the offense prior to his injury.

FIVE LOSSES THAT COULD HAVE GONE EITHER WAY

• In five of the team's nine 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 4.5 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 4.1 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; 0.8 bpg) and Justin Strings (15th; 0.6 bpg).
• Sacramento State has tallied at least five blocked shots in nine games, contributing to the opposition shooting just .425 against the Hornets this year (third best in the Big Sky).

HORNETS PROFICIENT FROM THE FIELD

• Sacramento State is shooting exactly .462 from the field overall and in conference play, a mark which ranks third overall in the Big Sky.
• The Hornets have shot better than .460 in four straight, and 10 games overall.
• Sacramento State has three regulars shooting at least 50 percent from the field, comprised of Eric Stuteville (.563), Jeff Wu (.518) and Justin Strings (.500).

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 11 straight games and leads the Hornets with 14.2 ppg.
• He has started each of the last six games, leads the team with 15 double-figure efforts, has a team-high tying three double-doubles and is shooting .500 from the field.
• He has an impressive stat line of 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game.
• He has double-doubles in three of the six games, and in Big Sky play, is averaging 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. The rebounds are sixth 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, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 34.3 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 12 times, including four games with at least 20 points.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top five players in minutes (4th), assist-to-turnover ratio (4th; +1.9), steals (4th) and assists (5th).
• He is averaging nearly five trips to the free throw line per game (4.9), and is shooting .434 from the field and .687 from the free throw line.

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.

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.
• 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 five games due to injury.

MORE PLAYING TIME FOR THE YOUNGER GUYS

• Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz has played a number of his younger players substantially more during the conference season compared to non-league play.
• Big jumps in playing time have gone to the following players...
- Freshman Jeff Wu (20.2 minutes per game in league; 13.8 minutes in non-league).
- Freshman Grant Dressler (8.8 mpg in league; played just two games in non-league).
- Sophomore Jiday Ugbaja (10.4 mpg in league; 5.9 mpg in non-league).
- Sophomore James Herrick (6.5 mpg in league; played just four games in non-league).
- Junior Trevis Jackson (10.3 mpg in league; 5.3 mpg in non-league).

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby has scored at least eight points in five straight games, and is averaging 10.6 points over that span. Hornsby, who averages 8.0 ppg, ranks sixth in the Big Sky in rebounding (7.1), eighth in steals (1.4) and ninth in blocks (0.8).
• Center Eric Stuteville, who has a team-high +48 in plus/minus ratio, is averaging just 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds over his last five games. He has not scored in double figures in any of those five games. What makes that stretch so surprising is before the drought, he had scored at least 13 points in four consecutive games.
• True freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, is averaging 9.4 points and 22.4 minutes on .633 shooting (19-of-30) from the field over his last five games. His .518 field goal percentage this season is the second best mark on the team.
• After scoring a combined 23 points during the first 16 games of the year, sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja had a career-high tying seven points in a career-best 22 active minutes on Saturday against Portland State. He also had two rebounds and three assists.
• Through 15 games, senior guard Dreon Barlett was averaging 2.0 made 3-pointers per game, but has combined to drain just one three ball over the last two games. His .422 career 3-point percentage is the fourth best mark in school history.
• Sacramento State is averaging a robust 20.8 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.