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MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS MONTANA STATE SATURDAY EVENING AT THE NEST

MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS MONTANA STATE SATURDAY EVENING AT THE NEST

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Confernece standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Coming off an epic comeback win over Montana, Sacramento State (10-10, 3-6) returns to the Nest on Saturday to host Montana State (9-13, 4-6) at 7:05 p.m.
• In Thursday's 83-79 win over Montana, the Hornets overcame a 20-point second half deficit, outscoring the Griz, 54-30, over the final 18:42 of the contest.
• Saturday is Reno Night where two complimentary all-session passes and a two-night stay at Eldorado for the Big Sky Tournament in Reno will be given away to a lucky fan.
• The Hornets are now 7-3 at home, and Thursday's win allowed the team to avoid its 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 eight games because of injury.
• The Hornets have played without a starter due to injury in 10 of the last 11 games, and the team is 3-7 during that 10-game stretch.
• The Hornets have gone small each of the last three 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 three games. The plan has worked thus far, as the Hornets are 2-1 in those games.
• Sacramento State will look to solve a baffling pattern that has seen the Hornets post an 0-7 record when playing on Saturday. The team is 10-3 every other day of the week.
• The win over Montana on Thursday knocked the Griz out of first place, and allowed the Hornets to move within just 2.5 games of third place in the conference standings.
• Sacramento State will be playing Montana State for the second time this season, as the Bobcats posted a 71-64 win in Bozeman on Jan. 7.
• The Hornets are just 17-28 all-time against Montana State, but hold a 12-9 record when the two teams play in Sacramento.
• The Hornets have won four straight meetings against the Bobcats inside the Nest, including last year's 75-59 victory.
• Montana State sits a half game ahead of Sacramento State in the conference standings and has dropped two straight, including an 83-68 road loss to Portland State on Thursday evening.

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 VS. MONTANA STATE; 71-64 LOSS ON JAN. 7

• Montana State used an 11-3 run over the game's final 2:26 and scored on six of its final seven possessions to defeat Sacramento State, 71-64, in Bozeman on Jan. 7.
• After a 3-pointer from Jeff Wu gave the Hornets their first lead in over 28 minutes of game clock at 61-60 with 2:48 to play, Montana State answered by scoring on three straight possession via Tyler Hall jumper, Danny Robison layup and 3-pointer from Sarp Gobeloglu. By the time the Gobeloglu 3-ball fell, the Hornets trailed, 67-61, with 1:17 left.
• A Marcus Graves 3-pointer eventually cut the deficit to a one-possession game (67-64) with 23 seconds to play, but Montana State answered with two free throws from Marcus Colbert on its next possession.
• The Hornets were whistled for 22 fouls, and three starters (Nick Hornsby, Graves, Eric Stuteville) all fouled out of the contest.
• After shooting 50 percent (12-of-24) from the field in the first half while trailing just, 35-33, at halftime, Sacramento State converted just eight field goals (8-for-24, .333) in the second half and could not come up with a big bucket late.
• Overall, the Hornets shot .417 (20-of-48) from the field, .455 (10-for-22) from the 3-point line and .824 (14-of-17) from the free throw line.
• The Hornets' proficient 3-point shooting was neutralized by Montana State going 11-of-24 from beyond the arc (.458) while shooting .444 overall (24-of-54) from the field.
Dreon Barlett (13), Hornsby (12), Strings (11) and Wu (11) scored in double digits.

INJURIES STINGING THE HORNETS

• Sacramento State has played 10 of the last 11 games without an injured starter, and the team has posted a 3-7 record during those 10 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 eight 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.

SATURDAY BLUES

• Sacramento State is 0-7 when playing on Saturdays this year, and is being outscored in those games by 11.0 points per contest.
• That 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), Montana (77-58) and Eastern Washington (74-67).
• The Hornets' worst losses of the year were to Portland State (at home), Portland, Montana (road) and Weber State as the Hornets did not have any chance at winning those games late.

GOING SMALL

• The Hornets have decided to start a small lineup each of the last three games, taking 6-foot-11 center Eric Stuteville out of the starting lineup for the first time all year. The team has responded by going 2-1 during that stretch.
• Stuteville was replaced in the starting unit with 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja, who made the first three collegiate starts of his career.
• The Hornets have started three guards (Ugbaja, Marcus Graves, Dreon Barlett) and two forwards (Justin Strings, Nick Hornsby) during the three-game stretch. None of the guards stand taller than 6-foot-3, and both forwards are 6-foot-7.
• Ugbaja is averaging 10.3 ppg in those three games, and Stuteville had a big game off the bench vs. Montana, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

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 41-12 (.774 winning percentage) at the Nest. That includes wins in 28 of the last 34 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 few weeks.
• The Hornets are 7-3 at home this season, outscoring opponents by 6.5 points per game.
• The Hornets are averaging over 80 points per game (80.2) inside the Nest this year.

ITS PRONOUNCED JI-DAY YOU-BAW-JUH

• Get used to saying that name as sophomore guard Jiday Ugbaja has started three straight games and responded by averaging 10.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 24.7 minutes over that span.
• That included a breakout game on Thursday vs. Montana when he posted career highs in points (18), free throws made (8) and attempted (10) and minutes (28).
• Ugbaja played in only five games last season, and had averaged just 1.9 points and 7.3 minutes through the first 17 games 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; 2.1 bpg), and forwards Nick Hornsby (11th; 0.8 bpg) and Justin Strings (12th; 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 13 of the last 14 games and averages 14.1 points overall (2nd on the team) and a team-best 14.7 points in conference play.
• That 14.7 ppg in league play is the best mark among all Big Sky sophomores.
• He has started each of the last nine games, leads the team with 17 double-figure efforts, has a team-high tying three double-doubles and is shooting .485 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 last Saturday.

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 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 34.7 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 15 times, including four games with at least 20 points.
• Graves has scored in double figures in six straight games and is averaging 17.2 points per contest over that span.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top four players in assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd; +2.0), minutes (3rd), steals (4th) and assists (4th).

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.

STARTING STREAK 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 eight games due to a lower body injury.

HORNET NOTABLES

• True freshman Jeff Wu, the first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I athletic scholarship, has scored in double figures in four of the last eight games and is now averaging 8.7 points in league play. Despite being a guard, he is shooting a very proficient .514 from the field this year, the second best mark on the team.
• After failing to score in double figures in seven straight games, center Eric Stuteville finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in a season-high 34 minutes against the Grizzlies. That included 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half.
• In conference play, junior forward Nick Hornsby is averaging 9.0 points and 6.4 rebounds while scoring in double figures four times in the eight games he has played. He ranks 8th in the league in steals (1.4 spg) and 9th in rebounding (6.4 rpg).
• Senior guard Dreon Barlett, who is one of the best perimeter shooters on the team, is due for a breakout game soon. Over the last five games, he is averaging just 4.4 points on .233 (7-of-30) from the field and .211 (4-for-19) from the 3-point line.