FINAL REGULAR SEASON ROAD TRIP; MEN'S HOOPS AT NORTHERN COLORADO

FINAL REGULAR SEASON ROAD TRIP; MEN'S HOOPS AT NORTHERN COLORADO

Full set of game notes/stats (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• With four games left in the regular season, Sacramento State (11-14, 4-10) will play the first of just two remaining road games on Thursday at Northern Colorado (8-18, 5-9). Tip-off at the Bank of Colorado Arena is set for 6:05 p.m. PST.
• The Hornets are playing Northern Colorado for the first and only time this season. In fact, beginning on Thursday, Sacramento State will play four consecutive opponents for the first and only time during the regular season.
• Sacramento State is coming off a 68-65 home win against Idaho in which the team overcame an 11-point second half deficit and snapped a four-game losing streak.
• The Hornets are 3-9 on the road this season, and 1-6 away from home against conference opposition. The team's lone league road win came at Idaho (65-63) on Jan. 28.
• Sacramento State currently sits 10th in the 12-team Big Sky, and the best the Hornets could finish in the division standings is seventh place. All 12 teams qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno (Mar. 8-12), and the top four receive a first round bye.
• Fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has played each of the last four games after missing nine straight games with a quad injury. In the four games since his return, he is averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists & 27.8 minutes per game.
• Three straight, and six of the last eight Sacramento State games have been decided by five points or less.
• Thursday's matchup will be the first between the Hornets and Bears in over 12 months as the last meeting was a 66-59 Sacramento State win on Feb. 19, 2015, at the Nest.
• Northern Colorado sits one game ahead of Sacramento State in the conference standings, as the Hornets could move into a tie for eighth place with a win (and a PSU loss).
• Northern Colorado has dropped five consecutive games, and has yet to win in February. The Bears have lost four of those five games by double figures.
• Northern Colorado is 6-8 at home, and 3-4 against conference opposition. That includes a 96-90 victory over Eastern Washington in the Big Sky opener on Dec. 31.
• In a series which dates back to the 2006-07 season (the year UNC joined the Big Sky), the Hornets are 6-12 against the Bears, including a 2-7 mark when playing in Greeley.
• The Hornets have dropped three straight in Greeley by an average of 11.7 points.

TELEVISION/RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Thursday's game is being televised on Comcast Entertainment Television (CET), a network available only on XFINITY TV service in the Comcast Colorado cable footprint.
• 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.
• Due to a scheduling conflict, Thursday's game will be broadcast live on KSAC 105.5 FM. The Hornets will return to their usual station (KTKZ 1380 AM) on Saturday.
• 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 HORNETS' LAST GAME

Justin Strings had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds, and Sacramento State used a 28-17 run over the final 11:04 to defeat Idaho, 68-65, on Saturday evening.
• After scoring a season-low 22 points while shooting just .308 (8-of-26) in the first half, the Hornets put together a second half that saw the team outscore Idaho, 46-35.
• Idaho led for more than 26 minutes of game clock, but it was the Hornets that came through with the big buckets while turning up the defense late. During that 28-17 run, six different Sacramento State players scored, including Strings (11), Dreon Barlett (7), Cody Demps (4), Jeff Wu (3), Marcus Graves (2) and Trevis Jackson (1).
• It was Strings' jumper at the 6:38 mark of the second half that gave Sacramento State its first lead (55-54) since 8-6 at the 12:50 mark of the first half. Wu followed Strings' jumper with a long 3-pointer from the right wing that gave Sacramento State a 58-54 lead, an advantage the team would not relinquish the rest of the evening.
• Idaho tied the game on two occasions at 58-58 (4:22) and 60-60 (2:09), but the Vandals missed four of their last five field goal attempts spanning the final 1:16.
• The Vandals made things interesting despite trailing by five points (67-62) with 17 seconds left, and eventually had a chance to tie but Perrion Callandret's 3-point attempt with one second remaining missed and was rebounded by the Hornets' Nick Hornsby.

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 six of the last seven games, Sacramento State has found itself down big early.
- Trailed at home vs. Idaho, 30-22, at the half. Twenty-two points was a season low for a half.
- 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 32.8 points in the first half compared to 39.5 points in the second half.
• The Hornets are being outscored in the first half by an average of 3.0 points, but have outscored the opposition in the second half by an average of 3.0 points.

THE SATURDAY LOSING STREAK FINALLY BUSTED

• The Hornets' 68-65 win vs. Idaho snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Hornets when playing on Saturday. In fact, that marked the first victory of the season on Saturday as Sacramento State had been 0-9 prior to the streak mercifully coming to an end.
• The losing streak included 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 four 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

• After a rash of turnovers to start the conference season, the Hornets have been much better over the last month, turning the ball over 11 times or less in eight 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 eight games, however, the team is averaging just 9.4 turnovers, and the opposition is scoring just 11.1 points per contest off those miscues.

CLOSE OUTCOMES ARE THE NORM

• The Hornets have played in three straight, five of six, and six of the last eight games that have been decided by five points or less.
• In fact, the only time in the last three weeks Sacramento State found itself in a non-nail biting game was a 63-50 loss at Weber State on Feb. 11.
• The Hornets have played 16 games decided by eight points or less; 7-9 in those games.

STRINGS ON A SCORING/NON-TURNOVER BINGE

• Sophomore Justin Strings has scored 20-plus points in three straight and four of the last five games. During that five-game stretch, he is averaging 20.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting .507 (37-of-73) from the field.
• If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Strings has gone 114 consecutive minutes (spanning four games) without committing a turnover. In fact, he has just three turnovers in his last 283 minutes, or one miscue every 94.3 minutes played over that span.
• A 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward who can play on the inside and the perimeter, Strings has scored in double figures in 18 of the last 19 games. He leads the team with 15.2 points per game, and has upped that mark in league play to 16.6 points per game.
• His averages of 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during conference play are both the second best marks in the league among sophomores.
• He has started each of the last 14 games, leads the team with 22 double-figure scoring efforts, and has a team-high five double-doubles in league play.
• He averaged just 0.8 points, 0.7 rebounds and 4.2 minutes last year as a freshman.

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 13.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.5 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 25 games this year and he has better than a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.1).
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top five players in assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd), minutes (4th), assists (4th) and steals (5th).

DEMPS IS BACK

• After missing nine straight games with a quad injury, fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has returned to play in each of the last four 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 69.3 points on .435 shooting from the field.
• Demps, who has season averages of 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists, is averaging similar numbers of 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the four 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 born in Taiwan to receive a Div. I athletic scholarship, but he has also become the Hornets' first or second man off the bench as a true freshman.
• Wu, who hails from Taipei City, Taiwan, is averaging 6.5 ppg while shooting .443 (62-of-140) from the field.
• In conference play, he has upped his scoring average to 7.2 points per game.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Over the last three games, junior Nick Hornsby is averaging 6.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and has a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
• Sacramento State outrebounded the Big Sky's top rebounding team in Idaho last week by a 34-31 margin. That marked just the seventh time all season the Hornets have outrebounded their opponent, and the team is 6-1 in those games.
• Center Eric Stuteville sits in a tie for first place in the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.9 per game) and ranks sixth in field goal percentage (.571).
• The Hornets have committed 522 fouls (20.9 per game) this season, and have seen a player foul out of a game a robust 22 times. Five different players have fouled out at least three times - Graves (6), Hornsby (5), Demps (4), Barlett (3) and Eric Stuteville (3).