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MEN'S HOOPS HOSTS IDAHO ON SATURDAY NIGHT AT 7 P.M.

MEN'S HOOPS HOSTS IDAHO ON SATURDAY NIGHT AT 7 P.M.

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State plays the first of just three remaining home games this Saturday against Idaho. Tip-off at the Nest is set for 7:05 p.m.
• Saturday is Breast Cancer Awareness, and fans are encouraged to wear pink.
• The Hornets are coming off a 93-88 home loss to Eastern Washington Thursday in a game that was the tale of two halves. The Hornets trailed at halftime, 58-40 (largest halftime deficit of the year), before outscoring the Eagles in the second half, 48-35.
• Sacramento State has dropped four straight games, the program's longest losing streak in four years. The Hornets will look to avoid their first five-game losing streak since the middle of the 2011-12 season.
• The Hornets currently sit 10th in the 12-team Big Sky with a 3-10 league record. All 12 teams qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno (March 8-12).
• The Hornets are 7-5 at home this year, but just 2-4 against Big Sky opposition inside the friendly confines. Sacramento State was 9-0 at home against the league last season.
• The Hornets will try to solve the most baffling stat in recent memory, as Sacramento State is 0-9 on Saturday this year. The team is 10-5 every other day of the week.
• That includes an 0-7 mark when playing a Big Sky team on Saturday.
• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has played each of the last three games after missing nine straight games with a quad injury. In the three games since his return, he is averaging 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists & 28.0 minutes per game.
• The Hornets will attempt to sweep the season series against Idaho, as Sacramento State won in Moscow, 65-63, on Jan. 28. In that game, Marcus Graves scored 11 of his team-high 18 points in the final 8:07 and the Hornets hung on for dear life at the end.
• The Vandals have won three straight, and five of their last six games. Four of those five wins during that stretch have come by six points or less, including Thursday's 80-74 win at Portland State.
• In a series which dates back to the 1968-69 season, Sacramento State is 3-15 all-time against Idaho, but the Hornets have won two of the last three meetings.
• Prior to the Hornets' 79-76 home win last season against Idaho, the Hornets had dropped 13 straight games to the Vandals. The Hornets are 2-6 vs. Idaho at home.

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.

RECAP OF THE LAST GAME VS. 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 Jan. 28.
• 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.
• Sacramento State held a 37-21 halftime lead, its largest advantage at the break against a Div. I opponent this season. However, Idaho outscored the Hornets in the second half by a 42-28 margin. Still, the Hornets never trailed the entire way, leading the final 39:40 of the contest.

SLOW STARTS LEADING TO BIG 1ST HALF DEFICITS

• Sacramento State has gotten off to a number of slow starts lately that has put the team in a hole early and led to large first half deficits.
• In five of the last six games, Sacramento State has found itself down big early.
- Trailed at home vs. Eastern Washington, 39-23, with 8:38 left in the first half.
- Trailed at Weber State, 18-8, did not eclipse 10 points until 7:06 left in the first half.
- Trailed at home vs. Montana State, 19-10, did not eclipse 10 points until 9:12 left in half.
- Trailed at home vs. Montana, 21-6, did not eclipse 10 points until 9:47 left in the half.
- Trailed at Eastern Washington, 14-6, did not eclipse 10 points until 10:58 left in the half.
• Sluggish first halves have been a problem all year as the Hornets average just 33.2 points in the first half compared to 39.3 points in the second half.
• The Hornets are being outscored in the first half by an average of 2.8 points, but have outscored the opposition in the second half by an average of 2.6 points.

SATURDAY BLUES

• Amazingly, Sacramento State is 0-9 when playing on Saturdays this year, and is being outscored in those games by 9.1 points per contest.
• That includes home losses to Montana State (79-76), 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), Eastern Washington (74-67) and Idaho State (66-64).

HORNETS FINALLY HEALTHY

• Sacramento State has finally returned to health after playing 11 games without a starter because of injury. Prior to the injuries, Sacramento State was looking good with a 7-3 record. However, by the time the injury bug went away, the Hornets were 10-11.
• Guard Dreon Barlett did not play at Stanford, forward Nick Hornsby did not suit up in the Big Sky opener at Portland State and guard Cody Demps missed nine straight games.
• With Cody Demps return from injury three games ago, the Hornets are back to health, but still working out the kinks of a team playing together again for the first time in a while.
• Prior to Demps' return, the team played its first 10 league games minus an injured starter.

NINE LOSSES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

• In nine of the team's 14 losses, the Hornets trailed by four points or less, or held a lead during the final 3:30 of the contest. Here is the breakdown of those seven losses.
- 93-88 loss vs. Eastern Washington - trailed, 92-88, with 17 seconds remaining
- 66-64 loss at Idaho State - trailed, 60-59, with 3:00 to play.
- 79-76 loss to Montana State - trailed, 77-76, with 3 seconds remaining.
- 74-67 loss at Eastern Washington - trailed, 70-67, with 17 seconds remaining.
- 71-64 loss at Montana St. - led, 61-60, with 2:30 left/one possession game in last minute.
- 76-68 loss at Portland State - led 55-53 with 4:30 remaining.
- 70-60 loss at Stanford - tied, 56-56, with 5:10 remaining/trailed, 63-60, with 3:21 left.
- 66-61 loss at UC Davis - tied, 61-61, with 1:12 left/one possession game in final minute.
- 96-90 loss to South Dakota - led, 81-80, with 4:39 left/one possession game in last minute.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL BETTER OF LATE

• After a rash of turnovers to start the conference season, the Hornets have been much better of late, turning the ball over 11 times or less in seven straight games.
• Through the first six league games, the Hornets averaged 13.5 turnovers per game and the opposition was averaging 17.5 points per contest off those miscues.
• Over the last seven games, however, the team is averaging just 9.1 turnovers, and the opposition is scoring just 10.4 points per contest off those miscues.

HALFTIME SCORE USUALLY TELLS THE TALE

• So far, the halftime score has been a good indication of what the final outcome will be in the majority of Sacramento State's games this season.
• The team is 7-1 when tied or leading at the half. And when trailing, the Hornets are 3-13.
• That includes a 5-1 mark when leading at the half, and 2-0 when tied at the half.
• Sacramento State has trailed at the half in six straight, and 12 of the last 13 games. In fact, the Hornets have trailed at the break in all but one of their conference games.
• The only lead at halftime in a conference game came, 37-21, at Idaho.

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 17 of the last 18 games and leads the team with an average of 14.9 points overall. In conference play, he leads the Hornets in both scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg).
• The rebounding in league play is the best mark among all sophomores in the Big Sky, and the scoring is the second highest mark among sophomores.
• He has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and is averaging 19.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 34.2 minutes over that span.
• He has started each of the last 13 games, leads the team with 21 double-figure scoring efforts, and has a team-high five double-doubles in league play.

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, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 34.5 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 17 times, including five games with at least 20 points.
• Graves is the only Hornet to start all 24 games this year.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top five players in assist-to-turnover ratio (4th; +1.9), minutes (4th), assists (5th) and steals (5th).

DEMPS IS BACK

• After missing nine straight games with a quad injury, fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps returned to action last week and played in both games.
• Its no secret the Hornets ran a crisper offense when Demps was healthy as the team was averaging 76.1 points and shooting .462 from the field prior to his injury. Since his injury, which coincided with the beginning of conference play, Sacramento State is averaging just 69.4 points on .435 shooting from the field.
• However, the Hornets' offense showed signs of breaking out of its funk Thursday vs. Eastern Washington, scoring 88 points while shooting .500 from the field with 21 assists.
• Demps, who has season averages of 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists, is averaging 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assist in the three games since his return.
• Demps had started 75 straight games and played 104 straight games prior to the injury.
• Demps, who has played four positions during his career, assumed the point guard duties for the first time this season.

FIRST PLAYER FROM TAIWAN TO RECEIVE DIV. I SCHOLARSHIP

• Not only does guard Jeff Wu have the title of first men's basketball player from Taiwan to receive a Div. I athletic scholarship, but he has become the Hornets' first or second man off the bench as a true freshman.
• Wu, who hails from Taipei City, Taiwan, is averaging 6.6 ppg while shooting .449 (61-of-136) from the field despite most of his shots coming from the perimeter.
• In conference play, he's upped his scoring average to 7.5 points per game.

HORNET NOTABLES

• With the return of Cody Demps, Jiday Ugbaja has played a combined 25 minutes over the last three games. Prior to Demps' return, Ugbaja had started four straight games.
• Junior Nick Hornsby pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds on Thursday vs. Eastern Washington, marking his second straight game with double digits in rebounds, and fourth overall this season.
• Sacramento State has been outrebounded in eight of the last nine games. The Hornets are 5-1 when outrebounding their opponent this year.
• Center Eric Stuteville had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and remains first in the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.9 per game) and fourth in field goal percentage (.572).
• Sacramento State has used six different starting lineups this season. The starting unit that has been used most (10 games) consists of Graves, Demps and Barlett at guards, Hornsby at forward and Eric Stuteville at center.