MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY TOURNEY PLAY TUESDAY VS. MONTANA STATE

MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY TOURNEY PLAY TUESDAY VS. MONTANA STATE

Full Game Notes/Stats (pdf)
Big Sky Tournament Information


HORNETS IN THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

• Sacramento State will play in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament in Reno on Tuesday vs. Montana State at 5:35 p.m. at the Reno Events Center.
• Sacramento State's appearance in this year's Big Sky Tournament will be the team's third straight and seventh since joining the league in 1996.
• Prior to this season, only the top six or seven teams qualified for the league's postseason event. In addition, for the first time, the tournament is not being hosted by one of the Big Sky's 12 schools. It will be at the Reno Events Center this year.
• All 12 teams qualified for this year's Big Sky Tournament and the Hornets are the No. 10 seed after finishing the regular season 13-16 overall and 6-12 in the Big Sky. They will play the No. 7 seed Montana State (14-16, 9-9) on Tuesday at 5:35 p.m. with the winner taking on No. 2 seed Montana on Thursday at 5:35 p.m.
• The Hornets finished the regular season with two straight wins, having defeated both Southern Utah and Northern Arizona at home last week.
• Since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, the Hornets have reached the Big Sky Tournament six times previously, and that happened four straight years from 2002-03 through the 2005-06 seasons, and the last two seasons.
• Last year, the Hornets defeated Portland State in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Eastern Washington in the semifinals.
• Sacramento State is 3-6 all-time in tournament play, including semifinal appearances in 2003, 2006 and 2015. The Hornets hosted quarterfinal games in 2004 and 2005, and lost to Weber State by six points or less both times.
• In the four seasons where Sacramento State played its quarterfinal game away from home, the Hornets are 3-1, winning at Montana in 2003, at Montana State in 2006 and Portland State in Ogden in 2015.
• In Big Sky Tourney play, the Hornets are 0-2 at home, 2-2 on the road, and 1-2 at neutral.

VS. MONTANA STATE

• Sacramento State went 0-2 this season, but both of those games came down to the final minutes and the Hornets were playing without Cody Demps (injury) in both games.
• The Hornets lost in Bozeman, 71-64, in a game they led, 61-60, with 2:30 left. The Hornets lost inside the Nest, 79-76, in a game that Sacramento State trailed by just one point during the closing seconds.
• The Hornets are 17-29 all-time against Montana State, and the Bobcats have won four of the last five meetings between the two teams.
• Tuesday will mark the first time the two teams have faced one another in the Big Sky Tournament since a 71-70 Hornet win in Bozeman in the 2006 quarterfinals.
• On Jan. 7, Montana State used an 11-3 run over the game's final 2:26 and scored on six of its final seven possessions to defeat Sacramento State, 71-64, in Bozeman.
• On Feb. 6, the Hornets, who never led in the game, hit three 3-pointers in the final 17 seconds to make things interesting, but a length of the court pass with 0.9 seconds remaining was batted away as time expired in a 79-76 loss to MSU inside the Nest.
• Sacramento State has been badly outrebounded by Montana State this year, as the Bobcats own an 83-69 edge in the rebounding department. That includes 29 offensive rebounds, resulting in 30 second-chance points for Montana State.
• Both teams haven't shot particularly well against each other (SAC .415, MSU .408), but the Bobcats have outscored the Hornets by an average of 75.0-70.0 in two games.

BIG SKY TOURNAMENT FORMAT

• This year's tournament features all 12 teams playing in a four-day tournament at the Reno Events Center from March 8-12. There will be no games on March 9.
• On Tuesday, there will be four first-round games, including No. 8 Portland State vs. No. 9 Northern Colorado at 12:05 p.m., No. 5 North Dakota and No. 12 Southern Utah at 2:35 p.m., No. 7 Montana State vs. No. 10 Sacramento State at 5:35 p.m., and finally No. 6 Eastern Washington vs. No. 11 Northern Arizona at 8:05 p.m.
• The top four seeds receive a first round bye and will be in action in Thursday's quarterfinals when No. 1 seed Weber State takes on the winner of Portland State/Northern Colorado, No. 2 Montana faces the winner of Sacramento State/Montana State, No. 3  Idaho gets the winner of Eastern Washington/Northern Arizona, and No. 4 seed Idaho State takes on the winner of North Dakota/Southern Utah.
• The semifinals take place on Friday and 5:35 and 8:05 p.m., and the championship is Saturday at 5:45 p.m. That game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

TELEVISION/AUDIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Every game of this year's Big Sky Tournament, except the championship game, will be available for free on www.WatchBigSky.com. Press conferences from all of the games will be available for fans as well. Watch Big Sky can be accessed on your computer or mobile device at www.watchbigsky.com.
• Saturday's championship game will be televised live on ESPNU beginning at 5:45 p.m. The championship game will not be available on Watch Big Sky.
• Tuesday's Sacramento State game will be aired live on the radio at KTKZ 1380 AM and www.hornetsports.com with play-by-play announcer Steve McElroy on the call.

THIS SEASON'S NOTABLES

• Sacramento State concluded the regular season with a 13-16 overall record and a 6-12 Big Sky mark. The Hornets won each of their last two, and three of their final five games of the regular season.
• The Hornets began the season with a 6-3 record until the injury bug hit. At that point, a Sacramento State starter missed 11 of the next 12 games due to injury, and by the time the injury bug went away, the Hornets were 10-11.
• Sacramento State has played with a healthy roster each of the last eight games, but is just 3-5 over that span.
• After beginning the season with road wins at Arizona and Seattle, the Hornets have gone 1-11 on the road with the lone win over that span coming at Idaho on Jan. 28.
• Sacramento State went 10-5 at home, marking the fourth consecutive season with at least 10 victories inside the Nest.
• The Hornets enter the Big Sky Tournament on a two-game winning streak, the team's second longest of the season; trailing the four-game winning streak to begin the year.
• Sacramento State had improved its conference record each of the last six years, including a 13-5 Big Sky record last year. That streak ended this season.
• Of the Hornets' 29 games, 18 have been decided by eight points or less. Sacramento State is 8-10 in those 18 contests.

SHOULD THE HORNETS WIN ON TUESDAY....

• Sacramento State would advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Tournament where the team would play No. 2 Montana (19-10, 14-4) on Thursday at 5:35 p.m.
• The Hornets would avoid going 0-3 against a team in the same season for the first time since the 2005-06 season (Northern Arizona).
• Sacramento State would take on Montana for just the second time in Big Sky Tournament play. The other was an 88-75 win in Missoula in the 2003 Big Sky quarterfinals.
• The Hornets would pick up just their fourth Big Sky Tournament win since joining the conference in 1996, and would win a Big Sky Tourney game in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.
• Sacramento State would be three wins away from qualifying for the program's first-ever NCAA Div. I Tournament.

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 fact, the Hornets have trailed by at least eight points in the first half in eight of the last 11 games.
• Sluggish first halves have been a problem all year as the Hornets average just 32.5 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 2.4 points.

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 6-3 record.
• 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 eight games ago, the Hornets are back to health. 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.
• Two of those losses came against Montana State. That included the Hornets holding a 61-60 lead in Bozeman with 2:30 remaining before the Bobcats eventually won, 71-64.
• In Sacramento, the Hornets trailed, 77-76, in the waning seconds before falling, 79-76.

PLENTY OF CLOSE OUTCOMES THIS SEASON

• Including the Hornets' 69-63 overtime win last week over Southern Utah, Sacramento State has played in a number of tight games this season.
• Five of the Hornets' last seven games, and eight of the last 12, 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.
• Of the Hornets' 18 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 nine games, including a career-high 26 points at North Dakota. During that nine-game stretch, he is averaging 18.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting .504 (61-for-121) from the field.
• If those numbers weren't impressive enough, Strings has turned the ball over just seven times in his last 410 minutes played, or one turnover per 58.6 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 26 times. He leads the team with 15.3 points per game, and has upped that mark in league play to 16.4 points per game.
• His average of 16.4 points in league play is the top mark among all Big Sky sophomores and his 7.7 rebounds per game is the second best mark among sophomores.
• He has started each of the last 18 games, has scored in double figures in 22 of the last 23 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.

A WHOLE BUNCH OF NOTABLES

• 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 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 34.4 minutes this season.
• After missing nine straight games with a thigh injury, fourth-year senior and team co-captain Cody Demps has played in each of the last eight games. During that eight-game span, Demps is averaging 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Demps had started 75 straight games and played 104 straight games prior to the injury.
Jeff Wu, who is a true freshman, is the first men's basketball player born in Taiwan to receive a Div. I athletic scholarship. He has been firmly in the Hornets' rotation all season, playing in all 29 games and averaging 17.2 minutes per contest.
• 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. He is also sixth in the league with a .564 field goal percentage.
• Junior Nick Hornsby has compiled at least seven points and seven rebounds in the same game 13 times this year. He has seasons highs of 16 points vs. Southern Utah and 13 rebounds vs. Eastern Washington.
• The Hornets don't outrebound the opposition very often, but when they do, it usually means a victory as evidence of an 8-1 record when winning the rebounding battle.
• Sacramento State is averaging just 13.5 fouls over the last two games after averaging 20.9 fouls (including 24 foul outs) during the first 27 games of the season.
• Fourth-year senior Dreon Barlett has converted on five of his last nine 3-point attempts over the last two games, and is now shooting .407 (90-of-221) from the 3-point line over his career, the sixth best mark in school history.
• The Hornets have limited three of the last five opponents to 65 points or less, and won each of those games (Idaho, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona).