MEN'S HOOPS SET FOR BIG SKY QUARTERFINALS VS MONTANA ON THURSDAY NIGHT

MEN'S HOOPS SET FOR BIG SKY QUARTERFINALS VS MONTANA ON THURSDAY NIGHT

Full game notes/stats (pdf)
Big Sky Tournament Central

HORNETS IN THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

• After beating Montana State, 79-75, in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament on Tuesday, No. 10 seed Sacramento State (14-16) will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday vs. No. 2 Montana (19-10). Tip-off at the Reno Events Center is set for 5:35 p.m.
• At No. 10, the Hornets are the lowest remaining seed in the 12-team tournament.
• By virtue of a top four seed, Montana received a bye in the first round of the tourney.
• Sacramento State and Montana have faced each other just once in the Big Sky Tournament, an 88-75 Hornet win in Missoula in the 2003 quarterfinals.
• Prior to this season, only the top six or seven teams qualified for the Big Sky Tournament. In addition, for the first time, the tournament is now being held at a neutral site.
• Other quarterfinal matchups on Thursday include No. 1 Weber State vs. No. 8 Portland State at 12:05 p.m., No. 4 Idaho State vs. No. 5 North Dakota at 2:35 p.m., and No. 3 Idaho vs. No. 6 Eastern Washington at 8:05 p.m.
• The semifinals will take place on Friday at 5:35 p.m. and 8:05 p.m., and the championship game will be televised live on ESPNU on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.
• The Hornets have won three straight, the team's second longest winning streak of the year. The team began the season with four consecutive victories.
• Since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, the Hornets have reached the Big Sky Tournament seven times. That includes four straight years from 2002-03 through the 2005-06 seasons, and, the last two years, and this season.
• Tuesday's win over Montana State marked the first time since joining the league the Hornets have won Big Sky Tournament games in back-to-back seasons. The Hornets knocked off Portland State in the quarterfinal round in Missoula last season.
• Sacramento State is now 4-6 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 Big Sky Tourney play, the Hornets are 0-2 at home, 2-2 on the road, and 2-2 at neutral.

VS. MONTANA

• Sacramento State and Montana split the regular season series with each team winning on its home floor. The Hornets were playing without Cody Demps (injury) in both games.
• In the teams' most recent meeting on Feb. 4 inside the Nest, the Hornets overcame a 20-point second half deficit, outscoring Montana after halftime, 54-36, on the way to an 83-79 victory. Montana beat the Hornets, 77-58, in Missoula on Jan. 9.
• The Hornets are 7-37 all-time against Montana, and the two teams have never met on a neutral floor.
• The only time the two teams have met in the Big Sky Tournament came in the 2003 quarterfinals, an 88-75 upset win by the Hornets in Missoula. That marked Sacramento State's first-ever Big Sky Tournament victory.
• In the two meetings this year, both teams shot the same from the field (SAC .467, UM .468), but the Hornets were just 6-of-26 from the 3-point line while the Grizzlies were 22-of-49 (.468). Sacramento State went to the free throw line 62 times compared to just 28 for the Grizzlies, but the Hornets shot the freebies at just a .597 (37-62) clip.
• Four Hornets are averaging double figures against Montana this year, including Justin Strings (12.5 ppg), Marcus Graves (12.5), Jeff Wu (12.0) and Eric Stuteville (11.0).

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.
• On Tuesday, four first-round games were played, with No. 8 Portland State beating No. 9 Northern Colorado, 74-67, No. 5 North Dakota taking down No. 12 Southern Utah, 85-80, No. 10 Sacramento State defeating No. 7 Montana State, 79-75, and No. 6 Eastern Washington topping No. 11 Northern Arizona, 74-52.
• The top four seeds received a first round bye on Tuesday, and each will be in action on Thursday. That includes No. 1 Weber State, No. 2 Montana, No. 3 Idaho and No. 4 Idaho State.
• The semifinals take place on Friday and 5:35 and 8:05 p.m., and the championship game is Saturday at 5:45 p.m. That game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
• Information on the tournament, including ticket prices, live video streams, schedule and much more, log onto RoadToReno.com.

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.RoadToReno.com. Press conferences from all of the games will be available for fans as well. RoadToReno.com can be accessed on your computer or mobile device.
• Saturday's championship game will be televised live on ESPNU beginning at 5:45 p.m. The championship game will not be available online.
• Thursday's Sacramento State game will be aired live on the radio at KSAC 105.5 FM and www.hornetsports.com with play-by-play announcer Steve McElroy on the call. The Hornets are usually on KTKZ 1380 AM, but a scheduling conflict on Thursday shifted the game over to KSAC 105.5 FM.

THIS SEASON'S NOTABLES

• Sacramento State currently has a 14-16 overall record and a 6-12 Big Sky mark. The Hornets have now won three straight games, and four of their last six.
• 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, however, has played with a healthy roster each of the last nine games, and is 4-5 over that span.
• After beginning the season with road wins at Arizona and Seattle, the Hornets went 1-11 away from home until notching another victory Tuesday vs. Montana State.
• Sacramento State went 10-5 at home, marking the fourth consecutive season with at least 10 victories inside the Nest.
• The Hornets have won three straight games, the second longest winning streak of the year. That trails 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' 30 games thus far, 19 have been decided by eight points or less. Sacramento State is 9-10 in those 19 contests.

SHOULD THE HORNETS WIN ON THURSDAY....

• Sacramento State would advance to the semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament where the Hornets would play Friday at 8:05 p.m. against the winner of the Idaho/Eastern Washington game.
• The Hornets would advance to the semifinal round for the fourth time (2003, 2006, 2015) since joining the Big Sky prior to the 1996-97 season.
• Sacramento State would beat Montana twice in the same season for the first time ever.
• The Hornets would pick up their fifth Big Sky Tournament win, and third in the last two years. Sacramento State is currently 4-6 all-time in Big Sky Tournament play.
• Sacramento State would be two 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 12 games.
• Sluggish first halves have been a problem all year as the Hornets average just 32.6 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 2.8 points, but have outscored the opposition in the second half by an average of 2.3 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 nine games ago, the Hornets are back to health. Prior to Demps' return, the team played its first 10 league games minus an injured starter.

PLENTY OF CLOSE OUTCOMES THIS SEASON

• Including the Hornets' 79-75 victory over Montana State on Tuesday night, Sacramento State has played in a number of tight games this season.
• Six of the Hornets' last eight games, and nine of the last 13, have been decided by six points or less.
• For the season, Sacramento State has played 19 games decided by eight points or less, and is 9-10 in those games.
• Of the Hornets' 19 games against a Big Sky opponent, 12 have been decided by eight points or less.

STRINGS DOESN'T PLAY LIKE A SOPHOMORE

• Sophomore Justin Strings has scored 20-plus points in six of the last 10 games, including 25 points, seven rebounds and a huge 3-pointer with 1:54 to play on Tuesday night.
• Over the last 10 games, he is averaging 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting .504 (69-137) from the field and .451 (23-51) from the 3-point line.
• He was the lone Hornet to receive all-conference recognition on Monday, being named honorable mention.
• Strings has turned the ball over just eight times in his last 444 minutes played, or one turnover per 55.5 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 27 times. He leads the team with 15.6 points per game, and 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 19 games, has scored in double figures in 23 of the last 24 games, and had 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 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 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 nine games. During that nine-game span, Demps is averaging 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Demps, who has yet to play against Montana this year, had started 75 straight games and played 104 consecutive 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 30 games and averaging 17.0 minutes per contest.
• Center Eric Stuteville had a huge game in the Hornets' home win over Montana, finishing with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots off the bench. Stuteville, who set the school single-game record with seven blocks last week vs. Southern Utah, leads the Big Sky with an average of 1.9 blocked shots per game. He is also sixth in the league with a .563 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. Hornsby finished Tuesday's win against Montana State with eight points, six rebounds and two huge free throws with 3.8 seconds left.
• 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 15.7 fouls over the last three games (all wins) 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 eight of his last 13 3-point attempts spanning the last three games, and is now shooting .413 (93-of-225) from the 3-point line over his career, the sixth best mark in school history.
• Only guards Marcus Graves, Jeff Wu and Trevis Jackson, forward Justin Strings and center Eric Stuteville have played in all 30 games this season. Jackson is a reserve who averages 5.6 minutes per game.