MEN'S HOOPS HOSTS NORTHERN ARIZONA IN SATURDAY'S REGULAR SEASON FINALE

MEN'S HOOPS HOSTS NORTHERN ARIZONA IN SATURDAY'S REGULAR SEASON FINALE

Full Game Notes/Stats (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State (12-16, 5-12) will play its final regular season game, and last home game of the season, on Saturday evening against Northern Arizona (5-23, 3-14). Tip-off at the Nest is set for 7:05 p.m.
• Prior to the game, Sacramento State fourth-year seniors Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett will be honored for their contributions to the program.
• The Hornets have clinched the No. 10 seed for next week's Big Sky Tournament in Reno, and will play on Tuesday at 5:35 p.m. against either Portland State or Montana State. If Montana State beats North Dakota at home on Saturday or Portland State loses at home to Southern Utah, the Hornets would take on the Bobcats on Tuesday.
• All 12 teams qualify for the Big Sky Tourney and the top 4 seeds get a first round bye.
• Tournament schedule, ticket prices and much more can be found at RoadToReno.com.
• The single-elimination tournament runs from March 8-12, and four games will take place on Tuesday including the Hornets taking on the eventual No. 7 seed.
• The Hornets beat Southern Utah at home on Thursday in overtime, 69-63, and outscored the Thunderbirds, 8-2, in the overtime session.
• Sacramento State is 9-5 at home, including a 4-4 mark against Big Sky opposition.
• Should the Hornets beat Northern Arizona on Saturday, it would mark the fourth straight season with double figures in home victories.
• Five of Sacramento State's last six games have been decided by six points or less.
• Northern Arizona is tied for 11th in the league standings with Southern Utah, and has lost three straight and five of six games. The Lumberjacks fell on the road at Portland State on Thursday night by an 89-81 score.
• In a series which dates back to 1991, the Hornets are 12-35 all-time against the Lumberjacks, including a 10-14 mark when playing in Sacramento.
• It was the Lumberjacks that defeated the Hornets in the second round of the CIT last season inside the Nest by a 78-73 score.
• Saturday's matchup will mark the first and only matchup of the season between the two teams. The Hornets have won three of the last five meetings in Sacramento.

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 HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Sacramento State limited Southern Utah to .385 shooting (25-of-65) and held an 8-2 advantage in overtime on the way to a 69-63 victory over the Thunderbirds on Thursday.
• During the extra session, Southern Utah shot just 1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-4 from the 3-point line and did not attempt a free throw.
• The Thunderbirds' lone bucket tied the score at 63-63 with 2:35 left, but SUU went 0-for-3 from the field while committing two turnovers during the final two minutes.
• Meanwhile, Sacramento State never trailed in overtime, getting buckets from Marcus Graves (3:50) and Nick Hornsby (1:02). The Hornets iced the game by going 4-for-4 from the free throw line during the final 30 seconds.
• Cody Demps was huge for Sacramento State at the end of regulation, scoring each of the Hornets' final six points spanning the final 2:58 of the second half. That included a 12-foot elbow jumper at the 1:14 mark to give the Hornets a 59-57 lead, and he later added a runner in the lane for a 61-59 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
• Southern Utah would tie the score at 61-61 with a pair of free throws at the 23-second mark and that's how the game would go into overtime. Demps missed a 3-point look at the end of regulation that would have given the Hornets the win.
• The Hornets held a 21-8 lead at the 7:48 mark of the first half, but Southern Utah closed the final 6:53 on a 14-4 run to trail, 25-22, at halftime. The Thunderbirds would eventually take a seven-point lead (36-29) with 15:32 remaining, but Sacramento State responded with a 20-6 run to take a 49-42 lead with 9:22 left.

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 10 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 32.8 points in the first half compared to 38.9 points in the second half.
• The Hornets are being outscored in the first half by an average of 3.1 points, but have outscored the opposition in the second half by an average of 1.9 points.

LOOKING TO BREAK OUT

• A number of Sacramento State players have been in shooting slumps of late, contributing to the Hornets' 69.2 points per game during Big Sky play (second lowest in the league).
• Sacramento State has shot .453 or less in nine of the last 11 games, and has not eclipsed the .500 field goal percentage mark in 13 straight contests.
• Some Hornets currently slumping from the field include Marcus Graves (9-of-33 over the last 4 games), Dreon Barlett (13-for-33 over the last 6 games), Jiday Ugbaja (6-for-19 over the last 8 games), Grant Dressler (1-for-17 over the last 10 games) and Jeff Wu (12-for-43 over the last 7 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 Demps' return from injury seven games ago, the Hornets are back to health, but still working out some kinks of a team that didn't play together for seven 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

• Including the Hornets' 69-63 overtime win over Southern Utah on Thursday, Sacramento State has played in a number of tight games this season.
• Five of the Hornets' last six games, and eight of the last 11, have been decided by six points or less.
• For the season, Sacramento State has played 18 games decided by eight points or less, and is 8-10 in those games.
• Sacramento State has played eight games at home that have been decided by eight points or less, and the team is 6-2 in those contests.
• Of the Hornets' 17 conference games, 11 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 eight games, including a career-high 26 points at North Dakota last Saturday. During that eight-game stretch, he is averaging 18.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting .491 (56-for-114) from the field.
• If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Strings has turned the ball over just five times in his last 383 minutes played, or one turnover per 76.6 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 25 times. He leads the team with 15.4 points per game, and has upped that mark in league play to 16.6 points per game.
• His averages of 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game during conference play are both the second best marks in the league among sophomores.
• He has started each of the last 17 games, has scored in double figures in 21 of the last 22 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, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 34.3 minutes this season.
• He has scored in double figures 19 times, including five games with at least 20 points.
• Graves is the only Hornet to start all 28 games this year and has nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.9).
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top seven players in assist-to-turnover ratio (4th), assists (4th), minutes (5th) and steals (7th).

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 seven 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 69.2 points on .433 shooting from the field.
• Demps, who has season averages of 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists, is averaging similar numbers of 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the seven 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 players off the bench as a true freshman.
• Wu, who hails from Taipei City, Taiwan, is averaging 6.3 ppg while shooting .447 (67-of-150) from the field.
• Over the last eight games, however, Wu is averaging 4.5 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 a Div. I-era (1991-pres.) program-record seven blocks vs. Southern Utah, eclipsing the previous school record of six, held by two players. Stuteville now easily leads the Big Sky with an average of 2.0 blocked shots per game
• Junior Nick Hornsby scored a season-high 16 points vs. Southern Utah, snapping a string of eight consecutive games in single digits.
• Reserve Trevis Jackson, who has a team-best +41 plus/minus ratio this season, received 11 minutes of playing time vs. Southern Utah, his most minutes in 14 games.
• The Hornets' win vs. Southern Utah marked the team's first OT game since Dylan Garrity buried a 75-footer at the OT buzzer to beat Weber State, 78-75, on Feb. 1, 2014.