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MEN'S HOOPS TRAVELS TO EASTERN WASHINGTON FOR SATURDAY MATINEE

MEN'S HOOPS TRAVELS TO EASTERN WASHINGTON FOR SATURDAY MATINEE

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Coming off a 65-63 road win at Idaho on Thursday, Sacramento State (9-9, 2-5) returns to action on Saturday for a rare matinee at Eastern Washington (10-10, 4-4). Tip-off at Reese Court is set for 12:05 p.m.
• The Hornets, who withstood a furious late rally by Idaho, snapped a six-game road losing streak with Thursday's win in Moscow.
• Sacramento State remained without the services of team co-captain and fourth-year senior point guard Cody Demps for the sixth straight game on Thursday.
• The Hornets had lost five of their last six games prior to Thursday's victory.
• The Hornets continue to be led by a pair of sophomores in forward Justin Strings (14.3 ppg/15.9 ppg in league) and guard Marcus Graves (13.6 ppg/13.1 ppg in league).
• Sacramento State will carry a 3-6 road record into Saturday's game, as the Hornets won their first two road games of the season at Arizona State and Seattle, then lost six in a row, and snapped that streak on Thursday at Idaho.
• Amazingly, Sacramento State is 0-6 on Saturday, and 9-3 when playing on any other day of the week.
• The Hornets went small in Thursday's win, electing to start three guards and two forwards with each player standing 6-foot-7 or shorter. In fact, it was 5-foot-11 guard Jiday Ugbaja who started in place of 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville. The start for Ugbaja, a sophomore, was the first of his collegiate career.
• The last time Sacramento State and Eastern Washington faced one anther was last year's Big Sky Tournament semifinals when the Eagles went 15-of-25 from the 3-point line while winning, 91-83, in Missoula. The Eagles eventually won the tournament title.
• Eastern Washington owns a 29-14 record in the all-time series against Sacramento State, including an 18-3 mark when playing at home.
• The two teams played three times last year with each squad winning at home, and the Eagles picking up the Big Sky Tournament victory on a neutral floor.
• The Hornets have won five of the last eight meetings in the series, and two of the last four matchups in Cheney.
• Eastern Washington, which buried a school-record 20 3-pointers in Thursday's 112-83 win vs. Portland State, is a perfect 7-0 at home, and 4-0 against league opposition.

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; 65-63 WIN AT IDAHO

• Marcus Graves had a team-high 18 points, including 11 points in the final 8:07, and Sacramento State held on for dear life in a 65-63 win at Idaho on Thursday evening.
• The Hornets, who led by as many as 21 points in the first half, saw that lead whittled down to a single point with 1:10 remaining in the contest.
• It was a tense final minute as the Hornets nearly blew what looked like an insurmountable lead of four points (65-61) with nine seconds to play. After Graves had just buried two free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining, Idaho's Pat Ingram drove the length of the floor in just five seconds and hit a layup to cut the deficit to 65-63.
• Sacramento State then inbounded the ball to center Eric Stuteville, who was fouled and missed both free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining. Idaho secured the rebound and raced the length of the floor before a blocking foul was called on the Hornets' Nick Hornsby with 0.9 seconds remaining.
• That put Ingram on the free throw line with a chance to tie the game and force overtime. However, Ingram missed the first free throw, and tried to miss the second on purpose to give the Vandals a chance at the rebound, but his wild attempt did not draw iron.
• The Hornets never trailed the entire way, leading the final 39:40 of the contest. Of Graves' final 11 points, he hit a big 3-pointer at the 5:18 mark after Idaho had cut the lead to three points, and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line during the final 18 seconds.

SATURDAY BLUES

• Sacramento State is 0-6 when playing on Saturdays this year, and is being outscored in those games by 11.7 points per contest.
• Includes home losses to Portland State (81-63), 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 State (at home), Portland, Montana and Weber State as the Hornets did not have any chance at winning those games late.

INJURIES STINGING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played eight of the last nine games without an injured starter, and the team has posted a 2-6 record during those eight 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 six 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.

GOING SMALL

• Sacramento State's coaching staff decided to start a small lineup in Thursday's win at Idaho, taking 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville out of the lineup for the first time all year.
• Stuteville was replaced in the starting unit with 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja, who made the first collegiate start of his career.
• The Hornets started three guards (Ugbaja, Marcus Graves, Dreon Barlett) and two forwards (Justin Strings, Nick Hornsby). None of the guards stand taller than 6-foot-3, and both forwards are 6-foot-7.
• The small lineup worked well as Sacramento State jumped out to a 26-8 lead during the first 11 minutes of the game.

IN NEED OF OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION

• During Big Sky play, the Hornets are averaging just 67.7 points per game, a mark which easily 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 decent percentage from the floor (.455), but turnovers are way up (12.7 per game) and the team's turnover margin (-1.57 per game) is 11th in the 12-team Big Sky.
• In addition, Sacramento State had converted just 33 3-pointers in league, or 5.5 per game, heading into Thursday's game at Idaho. However, the Hornets were able to convert on 10 3-pointers (one shy of a season high) against the Vandals.
• 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 4.4 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 (10th; 0.8 bpg) and Justin Strings (14th; 0.7 bpg).

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 12 straight games and leads the Hornets with 14.3 ppg.
• He has started each of the last seven games, leads the team with 16 double-figure efforts, has a team-high tying three double-doubles and is shooting .503 from the field.
• He has an impressive stat line of 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game.
• He has scored at least 17 points in three straight games, and in Big Sky play, is averaging 15.9 points and 7.9 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 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 34.4 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 13 times, including four games with at least 20 points.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top four players in minutes (3rd), assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd; +2.0), steals (4th) and assists (4th).
• He is averaging nearly five trips to the free throw line per game (4.9), and is shooting a team-high .833 (30-of-36) from the charity stripe during the final five minutes of games.

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 six 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 (19.9 minutes per game in league; 13.8 minutes in non-league).
- Freshman Grant Dressler (7.7 mpg in league; played just two games in non-league).
- Sophomore Jiday Ugbaja (12.5 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 (9.1 mpg in league; 5.3 mpg in non-league).

HORNET NOTABLES

• Forward Nick Hornsby has at least eight rebounds in four of the last five games, and now averages 7.2 boards per game, the sixth best mark in the Big Sky. Hornsby, who has fouled out of five games, also averages 7.9 points and 1.3 steals per contest.
• Center Eric Stuteville, who has a +50 in plus/minus ratio, is averaging 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds over his last six games. He has not scored in double figures in any of those six games, and came off the bench Thursday after starting 48 of the previous 50 games.
• True freshman Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, has played at least 18 minutes in six straight games.
• After averaging a robust 21.0 fouls during the first 16 games, the Hornets have committed an average of just 17.5 fouls over the last two contests.