MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT PLAY WEDNESDAY MORNING VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT PLAY WEDNESDAY MORNING VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

Full set of game notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference Tournament Home Page

HORNETS AT THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

• Sacramento State's appearance in this year's Big Sky Conference Tournament will be the team's sixth straight and 10th since joining the league in 1996.
• Prior to the 2015-16 season, only the top six or seven teams qualified for the league's postseason event. This season marks the fourth year in a row the tournament will be played on a neutral floor, and first at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. The previous three Big Sky Tournaments were played in Reno, Nev.
• All 11 Big Sky teams qualify for the league's postseason event and the Hornets are the No. 9 seed after finishing the season 14-15 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State will take on No. 8 Northern Arizona (10-20, 8-12) on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. PDT with the winner playing No. 1 seed Montana (23-8, 16-4) on Thursday at approximately 11 a.m. PDT.
• Since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97, the Hornets have reached the Big Sky Tournament 10 times, including four straight years from 2002-03 through the 2005-06 seasons, and six straight years from 2013-pres.
• Over the last four years at the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets are 3-4 with wins in their first game in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Last season, Sacramento State lost in the first round in a tightly contested game to Portland State (71-67).
• Sacramento State is 5-9 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. The Hornets have never reached the championship game.
• In Big Sky Tournament play, the Hornets are 0-2 at home, 2-2 on the road, and 3-5 on neutral floors.

VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

• Sacramento State split the season series with Northern Arizona this year, with both teams winning on the road. That included a 66-64 Hornet win in Flagstaff on Jan. 17, and a 78-66 loss to the Lumberjacks inside the Nest on Feb. 16.
• In the two games, NAU has outscored the Hornets by five points (71.0-66.0) while shooting a very proficient 49% (50-102) from the field and 42% (17-41) from the 3-point line. Conversely, the Hornets are shooting 44% from the field and 33% from distance.
• NAU owns a big advantage in points off turnovers (15.0-7.0), but the Hornets have an edge in points in the paint (34.0-27.0) and second chance points (11.0-8.5).
Joshua Patton has been very good against NAU, averaging 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. That includes a monster game in Flagstaff where he scored a career-high 34 points, the fourth most in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.). In that game, he buried a short jumper with 0.5 seconds left to provide the 66-64 victory.
Marcus Graves (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg) is one of four Hornets averaging at least 9.0 points vs. NAU, a list which also includes Bryce Fowler (9.5 ppg) and Osi Nwachukwu (9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa who is the team's fourth leading scorer at 8.6 points per game, has scored a combined three points in 64 minutes against the Lumberjacks.

BIG SKY TOURNAMENT FORMAT

• This year's tournament features all 11 teams playing in a four-day, single-elimination
event that takes place in Boise's CenturyLink Arena from March 13-16.
• The top five seeds - No. 1 Montana, No. 2 Northern Colorado, No. 3 Eastern Washington, No. 4 Weber State and No. 5 Portland State - each receive a first round bye.
• On Wednesday, there will be three first-round games, including No. 8 Northern Arizona vs. No. 9 Sacramento State at 8:30 a.m. PDT, No. 7 Southern Utah vs. No. 10 Idaho State at 11 a.m. PDT, and No. 6 Montana State vs. No. 11 Idaho at 1:30 p.m. PDT.
• On Thursday, there will be four quarterfinal games - No. 1 Montana takes on the winner of Sacramento State/Northern Arizona at 11 a.m. PDT, followed by No. 4 Weber State vs. No. 5 Portland State at 1:30 p.m. PDT, No. 2 Northern Colorado vs. the winner of Southern Utah/Idaho State at 4:30 p.m. PDT, and No. 3 Eastern Washington facing the winner of Montana State/Idaho at 7 p.m. PDT. 
• The semifinals take place on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. PDT, and the championship is Saturday at 5:00 p.m. PDT on ESPNU.
• The Big Sky women's tournament takes place March 11-15, also at CenturyLink Arena.

MULTIMEDIA OPTIONS

• The first round, quarterfinal and semifinal games of the Big Sky Tournament will be shown on Pluto.TV channel 231. The quarterfinals and semifinals will also be televised on Eleven Sports, and the championship game will air on ESPNU.
• Every Sacramento State game during the tournament will broadcast live on ESPN 1320 AM with 22nd-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• Live stats for every game of the tournament will be available via bigskystats.com.
• Links for all multimedia options for every Sacramento State game of the tournament can be found on the men's basketball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.

THIS SEASON'S NOTABLES

• After an injury-riddled 2017-18 season in which the Hornets finished 7-25 overall and 4-14 in league play, Sacramento State is the 14th most improved team in the nation, sitting at 14-15 overall and 8-12 in the conference.
• Sacramento State has defeated every team in the Big Sky once except for Northern Colorado and Montana. Both of the Northern Colorado losses came by six points or less while Montana beat the Hornets each time by at least 18 points.
• After the Hornets opened the conference season with an 0-4 record, the team went 8-8 over its final 16 league games.
• Sacramento State has won each of its last seven games on a Thursday, but, remarkably, has lost 12 consecutive games on a Saturday. That includes all 11 Saturday contests against a Big Sky opponent.
• Of the Hornets' 20 league games, 10 of those contests have been decided by six points or less. Sacramento State is 4-6 in those outcomes. Of the six losses, Sacramento State had a lead with under 3:15 to play in four of them.
• The Hornets had been 1-5 in those close game outcomes, but have since won three of their four games decided by six or less. That includes last week's 70-67 win over Montana State.
• This year marked the sixth time in the last seven years that Sacramento State has won at least 13 games overall.
• Sacramento State has played just one neutral floor game this season, and that was a 58-55 win over rival UC Davis on Nov. 20 at the downtown Golden 1 Center.
• Only senior guard Marcus Graves and junior center Joshua Patton have started every game this season. Amazingly, either Graves or Patton has led or tied for the team lead in scoring in all but two games this year.