MEN'S BASKETBALL TO PLAY SATURDAY MATINEE AT NORTH DAKOTA

MEN'S BASKETBALL TO PLAY SATURDAY MATINEE AT NORTH DAKOTA

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

GAME PREVIEW

• With only three games remaining in the regular season, Sacramento State (11-15, 4-11) will play its final road game on Saturday at North Dakota (14-12, 9-6). Tip-off at the Sioux Center is set for 12:05 p.m. PST.
• The Hornets and Fighting Hawks are both coming off nail biting games on Thursday that saw North Dakota win at home vs. Portland State (80-77) and Sacramento State lose on the road at Northern Colorado (72-67).
• The Hornets led for over 34 minutes of game clock at Northern Colorado, and lost for the first time all year when leading with 10 minutes, and five minutes to play.
• Four straight, and seven of the last nine Sacramento State games have been decided by five points or less. The Hornets are 3-4 in those seven games.
• Sacramento State is 3-10 on the road, and 1-7 against conference teams. The Hornets have dropped four straight since their lone Big Sky road win at Idaho on Jan. 28.
• The Hornets are 1-9 when playing on Saturday this year, and had been 0-9 until snapping that slide with a 68-65 home win over Idaho last weekend.
• Sacramento State currently sits 10th in the 12-team Big Sky, and the best the Hornets could finish in the division standings is eighth 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 five games after missing nine straight games with a quad injury. In the five games since his return, he is averaging 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists & 29.4 minutes per game.
• Saturday will be the first meeting between the Hornets and North Dakota in over 12 months as the last meeting was a 74-66 SAC win on Feb. 21, 2015, at the Nest.
• North Dakota is locked in a three-way battle for fourth place with Idaho and Idaho State. The top four teams receive a first-round bye in the Big Sky Tournament.
• The Fighting Hawks are 9-4 at home, and 6-2 at home vs. conference teams. Each of UND's last three games have been decided by three points or less.
• In a series which dates back to 2010, Sacramento State leads North Dakota, 5-4, and none of the nine meetings have been decided by more than 11 points.
• The Hornets are 1-4 away from home against North Dakota. That includes a 1-3 road record and a 2014 Big Sky Tournament neutral floor loss (79-76) in Ogden, Utah.

TELEVISION/RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Saturday's game is being televised on Fox College Sports Central (national) and the Midco Sports Network (regional). Alex Heinert and Greg Stemen will be on the call.
• 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 HORNETS' LAST GAME

• In a game that Sacramento State led for over 34 minutes of game clock, it was Northern Colorado that closed the final 5:39 on a 16-6 run to defeat the Hornets, 72-67, on Thursday evening at Bank of Colorado Arena.
• After outscoring Northern Colorado in the first half by a 42-36 margin, the Hornets went ice cold in the second half, shooting just 9-of-26 from the floor (.346) while scoring only 25 points. The Bears, meanwhile, scored 36 points in the second half, with 16 of those points coming from the free throw line.
• The Hornets were whistled for 13 fouls in the second half and Northern Colorado scored just 16 points on shots that didn't come from the free throw stripe.
• Sacramento State had taken a game-high 12-point lead (42-30) with 2:31 remaining in the first half, but proceeded to go for nearly six and a half minutes of game clock (6:26) spanning both halves without a point.
• A Jeremy Verhagen 3-pointer at the 1:23 mark gave Northern Colorado what had been its largest lead of the game at 65-63. A jumper from Demps on the Hornets' next possession tied the game at 65-65, but Jordan Wilson followed with another Bear 3-pointer that gave Northern Colorado a 68-65 lead with 39 seconds left. The Hornets never got closer.

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 eight 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.

SATURDAY BLUES

• The Hornets' 68-65 win vs. Idaho last Saturday 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.
• During the Hornets' Saturday contests, Sacramento State is 1-4 at home, and 0-5 on the road. The Hornets have been outscored by 7.9 points per contest on Saturday (78.0-70.1).

HORNETS FINALLY HEALTHY

• Sacramento State has 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 five games ago, the Hornets are back to health, but still working out some 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.

TEN LOSSES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

• In 10 of the team's 15 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.
- 72-67 loss at Northern Colorado - led, 63-62, with 1:41 remaining
- 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 five weeks, turning the ball over 11 times or less in eight of the last nine 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 nine games, however, the team is averaging just 9.9 turnovers, and the opposition is scoring 11.2 points per contest off those miscues.

CLOSE OUTCOMES ARE THE NORM

• The Hornets have seen four straight, six of seven, and seven of their last nine games 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 17 games decided by eight points or less; 7-10 in those games.

STRINGS ON A SCORING/NON-TURNOVER BINGE

• Sophomore Justin Strings has scored 20-plus points in four of the last six games. During that six-game stretch, he is averaging 18.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting .488 (41-of-84) from the field.
• If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Strings has gone 152 consecutive minutes (spanning five games) without committing a turnover. In fact, he has just three turnovers in his last 321 minutes, or one miscue every 107.0 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 19 of the last 20 games. He leads the team with 15.0 points per game, and has upped that mark in league play to 16.2 points per game.
• His averages of 16.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during conference play are both the second best marks in the league among sophomores.
• He has started each of the last 15 games, leads the team with 23 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 13.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 34.6 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 18 times, including five games with at least 20 points.
• Graves is the only Hornet to start all 26 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 (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 has returned to play in each of the last five 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 69.1 points on .436 shooting from the field.
• Demps, who has season averages of 12.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists, is averaging similar numbers of 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists in the five 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 6.3 ppg while shooting .438 (63-of-144) from the field.
• Over the last six games, however, Wu is averaging 4.2 points on just .216 shooting (8-of-37) from the field and .227 (5-of-22) from the 3-point line.

HORNET NOTABLES

• In Thursday night's defeat at Northern Colorado, Sacramento State lost for the first time all year when leading with 10 minutes to play (6-1) and five minutes to play (7-1). In additon, the six-point halftime lead was the largest squandered this season.
• Sacramento State has outrebounded just seven opponents, and is 6-1 in those games. When rebounds are equal or the team is outrebounded, the Hornets are 5-14.
• The Hornets have committed 545 fouls (21.0 per game) this season, and have seen a player foul out of a game a robust 23 times. Five different players have fouled out at least three times - Graves (6), Hornsby (6), Demps (4), Barlett (3) and Eric Stuteville (3).
• Either Demps, Graves or Strings has led the team in scoring in 11 straight games.