MEN'S BASKETBALL FINAL HOMESTAND BEGINS THURSDAY VS. SOUTHERN UTAH

MEN'S BASKETBALL FINAL HOMESTAND BEGINS THURSDAY VS. SOUTHERN UTAH

Full game notes/stats (pdf)
Big Sky Conference Standings
Big Sky Tournament information

GAME PREVIEW

• The Hornets (11-16, 4-12) enter the final week of the regular season with just two remaining home games on the docket, including Thursday vs. Southern Utah (5-21, 3-13)  at 7:05 p.m. inside the Nest.
• Thursday will mark the first and only time the Hornets will play Southern Utah this year.
• Sacramento State has dropped six of its last seven games, including road losses last week to Northern Colorado (72-67) and North Dakota (97-71).
• The Hornets are 8-5 at home this year, and 3-4 against conference competition.
• Sacramento State has already clinched its fourth consecutive season with a home record above the .500 mark.
• Sacramento State sits 10th in the Big Sky standings, and both of this week's opponents (Northern Arizona on Saturday) sit one game behind the Hornets in the standings.
• The Hornets can finish no higher than 10th place, but could drop all the way to 12th place with a pair of losses this week.
• If the season ended today, Sacramento State would be the No. 10 seed in the first round of next week's Big Sky Tournament, taking on No. 7 Montana State on Tuesday, March 8, at 5:35 p.m. in Reno. The top four seeds receive a first round bye.
• All 12 teams qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno which takes place March 8-12. Tournament info, including schedule, can be found on RoadToReno.com.
• The Hornets' 97-71 loss at North Dakota was easily the team's largest blowout loss of the year. Prior to that, Sacramento State had played four straight games decided by five points or less.
• Sacramento State is 9-16 all-time against Southern Utah, including an 8-4 record when playing the Thunderbirds in Sacramento.
• The two teams split their season series last year, with both wins coming at home. That included a 69-65 Hornet loss in Cedar City late last season that prevented Sacramento State from winning the Big Sky's regular season championship.
• Overall, the Hornets have won four of the last six meetings in the series.
• Southern Utah snapped a 10-game losing streak on Saturday with a 69-59 road win at Northern Arizona. The Thunderbirds are 3-11 on the road this year.
• Southern Utah has been outscored by an average of 12.6 ppg during conference play.

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.

RECAP OF THE HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Despite a career-high 26 points and seven 3-pointers from Hornet sophomore Justin Strings, North Dakota shot 63 percent from the field and never trailed in a 97-71 win over Sacramento State on Saturday at the Sioux Center.
• The 97 points were the most allowed by the Hornets this season, as North Dakota finished the game shooting .632 (36-57) from the field, .545 (12-22) from the 3-point line and .684 (13-19) from the free throw line.
• The Fighting Hawks held a 50-31 halftime advantage, and led by as many as 30 points in the second half before settling for the 26-point victory.
• North Dakota shot a blistering .692 (18-26) in the first half, and led by double figures the final 24:54 of the contest. The Fighting Hawks held advantages over the Hornets in points in the paint (42-20), fast break points (10-0) and points off the bench (34-19).
• North Dakota's Quinton Hooker had 34 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the field, 5-for-5 from the 3-point line and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
• The Hornets converted 12 less field goals, shooting .375 (24-64) from the field, .360 (9-25) from the 3-point line and just .538 (14-26) from the free throw line.
• Strings did everything in his power to keep the Hornets in the game for as long as possible, and his career-high 26 points came on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor and 7-of-11 from the 3-point line.

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 seven of the last nine games, Sacramento State has found itself down big early.
- Trailed at North Dakota, 24-11, with 9:18 left in the first half.
- 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 33.0 points in the first half compared to 39.0 points in the second half.
• The Hornets are being outscored in the first half by an average of 3.3 points, but have outscored the opposition in the second half by an average of 2.1 points.

LOOKING TO BREAK OUT

• A number of Sacramento State players have been in shooting slumps of late, contributing to the Hornets' conference-low 69.2 points per game during Big Sky play.
• Sacramento State has shot .380 or less from the field three times in the last six games, and has not eclipsed the .500 field goal percentage mark in 12 straight games.
• Some Hornets currently slumping from the field include Marcus Graves (5-of-22 over the last 3 games), Dreon Barlett (11-for-30 over the last 5 games), Jiday Ugbaja (6-for-19 over the last 7 games), Grant Dressler (1-for-17 over the last 10 games), Jeff Wu (12-for-43 over the last 7 games) and Nick Hornsby (18-for-49 over the last 8 games).

HORNETS AT FULL STRENGTH

• 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 and have not recovered.
• 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 six games ago, the Hornets are back to health, but still working out some kinks of a team that didn't play together for over six weeks.
• 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 16 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 10 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.

PLENTY OF CLOSE OUTCOMES THIS SEASON

• Despite Saturday's 97-71 loss at North Dakota, Sacramento State has played in a number of tight games this season.
• Four of the Hornets' last five games, and seven of the last 10, have been decided by five points or less.
• For the season, Sacramento State has played 17 games decided by eight points or less, and is 7-10 in those games.
• Sacramento State has played seven games at home that have been decided by eight points or less, and the team is 5-2 in those contests.
• Of the Hornets' 16 conference games, 10 have been decided by eight points or less.

STRINGS DOESN'T PLAY LIKE A SOPHOMORE

• Sophomore Justin Strings has scored 20-plus points in five of the last seven games,including a career-high 26 points at North Dakota on Saturday. During that seven-game stretch, he is averaging 19.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 block per game while shooting .500 (50-for-100) from the field.
• If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Strings has turned the ball over just five times in his last 345 minutes played, or one turnover per 69.0 minutes during that span.
• A 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward who can play on the inside and the perimeter, Strings has scored in double figures a team-high 24 times. He leads the team with 15.4 points per game, and has upped that mark in league play to 16.8 points per game.
• His averages of 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during conference play are both the second best marks in the league among sophomores.
• He has started each of the last 16 games, has scored in double figures in 20 of the last 21 games, 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 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 34.1 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 27 games this year and has better than a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.1).
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top six players in assist-to-turnover ratio (3rd), assists (T-4th), minutes (5th) and steals (T-6th).

DEMPS IS BACK

• After missing nine straight games with a thigh injury, fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has returned to play in each of the last six 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 a conference-low 69.2 points on .432 shooting from the field.
• Demps, who has season averages of 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, is averaging similar numbers of 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the six 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 .447 (67-of-150) from the field.
• Over the last seven games, however, Wu is averaging 5.1 points on just .279 shooting (12-of-43) from the field and .280 (7-of-25) from the 3-point line.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Center Eric Stuteville had 11 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes at North Dakota, narrowly missing his fourth double-double of the season. Stuteville remains the conference's leading shot blocker at 1.9 stuffs per game.
• Reserve Trevis Jackson, who averages 5.3 minutes per game, has a team-best +44 plus/minus ratio this season. Jeff Wu has the second best mark at +30.
• The Hornets have committed 565 fouls (20.9 per game) this season, and have seen a player foul out of a game a robust 24 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 12 straight games.