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MEN'S HOOPS WELCOMES MONTANA TO THE NEST ON THURSDAY NIGHT

MEN'S HOOPS WELCOMES MONTANA TO THE NEST ON THURSDAY NIGHT

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (9-10, 2-6) will host both Montana schools this week, beginning on Thursday with a matchup vs. Montana (13-7, 8-1) inside the Nest at 7:05 p.m.
• The Grizzlies defeated the Hornets, 77-58, in Montana on Jan. 9 in a game that Montana led by double figures the final 18:13 of the game.
• The Hornets split a pair of road games last week, defeating Idaho (65-63) on Thursday before falling to Eastern Washington (74-67) on Saturday.
• Sacramento State is 6-3 at home this year, but has lost each of its last two inside the friendly confines - Portland State (81-63) and Weber State (84-75).
• The Hornets will be looking to avoid their first three-game home losing streak since the 2011-12 season.
• Sacramento State has been without the services of team co-captain and fourth-year senior point guard Cody Demps each of the last seven games because of injury.
• The Hornets have played without a starter due to injury in nine of the last 10 games, and the team is 2-7 during that nine-game stretch.
• The Hornets have gone small each of the last two games, electing to start three guards and two forwards with each player standing 6-foot-7 or shorter. It was 5-foot-11 guard Jiday Ugbaja starting in place of 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville the last two games.
• Montana is currently at its halfway point of the conference season, and sits all alone in first place with an 8-1 record. The Hornets' 2-6 record is 10th in the 12-team league, but six of the team's last 10 conference games will come at home.
• The last time the Grizzlies and Hornets met in Sacramento, Dylan Garrity buried a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds remaining to give the Hornets a 70-69 win on Jan. 31, 2015. That win gave the Hornets sole possession of first place in the Big Sky standings.
• The Hornets are 6-37 all-time against Montana, and the Grizzlies have won 16 of the last 17 meetings. The win in the Nest last season snapped a 15-game losing streak for the Hornets against the Griz.
• Sacramento State is 5-16 all-time when playing Montana at home.
• Montana is outscoring Big Sky opposition by 8.2 ppg, and is led by 6-foot-8 forward Martin Breunig who averages 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Guards Walter Wright (12.7 ppg) and Michael Oguine (10.7 ppg) also average double-figure points.

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 VS. MONTANA; 77-58 LOSS ON JAN. 9

• 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 Jan. 9 at Dalhberg Arena.
• In a game that Montana never trailed, the Hornets were able to stay within six points or fewer 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.
• Sacramento State posted season lows in points (58), 3-pointers made, 3-pointers attempted, 3-point percentage (.167), assists (7) and steals (2).
• The Hornets went just 11-for-25 from the free throw line and were outrebounded by a 42-30 margin. Montana outscored the Hornets by nine points in the first half, and 10 points (40-30) in the second half.
• Overall, the Hornets shot well from the field (.469, 23-for-49) and committed just eight turnovers, but Sacramento State could not overcome a lack of 3-point shooting, poor free throw shooting and a red-hot Montana offense.
• Hornet freshman Jeff Wu had a team-best 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field while Justin Strings had 12 points and four rebounds in a team-high 35 minutes.

INJURIES STINGING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played nine of the last 10 games without an injured starter, and the team has posted a 2-7 record during those nine 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 seven 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 both games last week, taking 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville out of the starting 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 two collegiate starts 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 at Idaho, and kept the short-handed Hornets in the game at Eastern Washington the entire way.

IN NEED OF OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION

• During Big Sky play, the Hornets are averaging just 67.6 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 decent percentage from the floor (.448), but turnovers are way up (12.4 per game) and the team's turnover margin (-1.12 per game) is 10th in the 12-team Big Sky.
• Sacramento State has scored more than 68 points just once during conference play, and that came in an 82-71 home win against Idaho State.
• Without the services of point guard Cody Demps, ball movement has been an issue where the Hornets are averaging just 11.4 assists per game in league after leading the Big Sky with an average of 16.9 assists in non-conference play.

SIX LOSSES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

• In six of the team's 10 losses, the Hornets trailed by three points or less during the final 3:30 of the contest. Here is the breakdown of those 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.
- 74-67 loss at Eastern Wash. - trailed, 70-67, with 17 seconds remaining.
• During the last five minutes of the six losses listed above, Sacramento State shot a combined .344 (21-61) from the field and .276 (8-29) from the 3-point line while being outscored during that stretch, 83-59. Conversely, the opposition is shooting .559 (19-34) from the field during the same time span, and made 58 trips to the free throw line.

HORNETS AT HOME

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 40-12 (.769 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 27 of the last 33 home games.
• Sacramento State had won 11 straight regular season home games against Big Sky opposition until falling to both Weber State and Portland State over the last two home games.
• The Hornets are 6-3 at home this season, outscoring opponents by 6.8 points per game.
• The Hornets are averaging nearly 80 points per game (79.9) inside the Nest this year.

BLOCK PARTY

• Sacramento State's 4.4 blocked shots per game ranks first in the 12-team Big Sky.
• The Hornets have three players ranked among the top 15 in blocked shots, comprised of center Eric Stuteville (1st; 2.0 bpg), and forwards Nick Hornsby (10th; 0.8 bpg) and Justin Strings (13th; 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 of the last 13 games and averages a team-high 14.0 ppg overall and 14.9 ppg in conference play.
• That 14.0 ppg scoring average is second best among Big Sky sophomores.
• He has started each of the last eight games, leads the team with 16 double-figure efforts, has a team-high tying three double-doubles and is shooting .487 from the field.
• He had scored in double figures in 12 straight games until that streak came to an end when he tallied eight points at Eastern Washington.

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 13.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 34.4 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 14 times, including four games with at least 20 points.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top four players in assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd; +2.0), steals (4th), minutes (4th) and assists (4th).
• He is averaging nearly five trips to the free throw line per game (4.8), 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 seven games due to a lower body 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.
• Jumps in playing time have gone to the following players...
- Freshman Jeff Wu (20.5 minutes per game in league; 13.8 minutes in non-league).
- Freshman Grant Dressler (7.4 mpg in league; played just two games in non-league).
- Sophomore Jiday Ugbaja (14.0 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 (8.1 mpg in league; 5.3 mpg in non-league).

HORNET NOTABLES

• In confernece play, junior forward Nick Hornsby is averaging 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds while scoring in double figures four times in the seven games he has played. He ranks 7th in the league in steals (1.6 spg) and 9th in rebounding (6.7 rpg).
• Center Eric Stuteville, who has a team-high +46 in plus/minus ratio, is averaging 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds over his last seven games. He has not scored in double figures in any of those seven games, and has come off the bench the last two contests after starting 48 of the previous 50 games.
• Freshman guard Jeff Wu, who is the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I scholarship, is averaging 6.7 ppg and has an impressive .505 FG%.