MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS 2019-20 SEASON AT HOME ON FRIDAY VS SIMPSON AT 7 PM

MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS 2019-20 SEASON AT HOME ON FRIDAY VS SIMPSON AT 7 PM

Full set of game notes - 28 pages (pdf)

GAME PREVIEW

• Sacramento State kicks off the 2019-20 season at home on Friday night vs. Simpson at 7:05 p.m. inside the Nest.
• It marks the second straight season the Hornets have opened the season at home against Simpson. Last year, the Hornets beat the Red Hawks, 76-52. The previous four season openers came at Colorado State, Colorado, Arizona State and Gonzaga, respectively.
• Simpson resides in Redding, Calif., and is an NAIA institution that plays in the California Pacific Conference. The Redhawks have already played three times this year, and currently have a 1-2 record.
• Sacramento State and Simpson have played each other four times in the past, with the Hornets winning each time. In fact, Sacramento State has defeated Simpson by an average of 35.0 points during those three victories (all coming inside the Nest).
• In the teams' last meeting, the Hornets were victorious, 76-52, on Nov. 9, 2018. In that game (box score on page 10), four Hornets scored in double figures, including returners Ethan Esposito (20), Joshua Patton (13) and Bryce Fowler (12).
• Sacramento State played one exhibition game, and that came last Friday in an 88-60 win over Westcliff. A total of 13 players saw at least five minutes of action during the game, led by Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa's 21 points and four 3-pointers.
• Sacramento State is coming off a 2018-19 season in which the team finished 15-16 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky Conference. The 15 wins tied are the second largest output during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.). The Hornets were never better than four games above .500, or worse than one game below .500 during the entire season.
• The Hornets return 11 players (one redshirt), including four starters, from a year ago. That list includes six of the team's top seven scorers. Gone is leading scorer and second team all-conference selection Marcus Graves (16.8 ppg), but the Hornets still return a huge chunk of their scoring production. In fact, with the exception of Graves, every player on the roster that averaged at least four points per game is back.
• The list of returners includes center Joshua Patton (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg), guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (8.5 ppg, 1.5 spg), forward Ethan Esposito (8.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), guard Bryce Fowler (8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg), forward Osi Nwachukwu (6.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and forward Chibueze Jacobs (4.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg).
• Entering its 29th season as a Div. I member, the Hornets are 9-19 in season openers since making the jump to Div. I prior to the 1991-92 season. However, the team has won five of the last eight season openers, including a 66-63 win at Arizona State in 2015.
• Simpson's most recent game was a 78-76 home loss to Menlo on Nov. 2

MULTIMEDIA OPTIONS

• Beginning on Friday, all Sacramento State home games, and road games played against a Big Sky Conference team, will be video streamed for free on Pluto.TV. Those broadcasts can be watched online at Pluto.TV (home games on channel 533) or by downloading the app for your mobile device.
• Every home game this year will be broadcast live on ESPN 1320 AM with 23rd-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• Links for all multimedia options, including live stats for every game, can be found next to each game on the men's basketball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP

• Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa's 21 points, as Sacramento State cruised to an 88-60 victory over Westcliff last Friday at the Nest.
• Westcliff took its first and only lead of the game at 4-3 early in the first half, but Sacramento State responded with a 13-2 run and it was all Hornets from there. Sacramento State scored 44 points in both halves, and led by double figures the final 24:46 of the contest. That includes a lead of at least 20 points the last 16:29.
• Sacramento State shot a proficient 59% (33-56) from the field, 55% (6-11) from the 3-point line and 73% (16-22) from the free throw line. The Hornets also outrebounded the Warriors, 35-23, and scored 50 of their 88 points inside the paint.
• A total of 13 Hornets played, four scored in double figures and 10 cracked the scoring column. Sacramento State had big edges in points off turnovers (21-10), points in the paint (50-18) and bench points (38-22).
• Westcliff is in its third year at the NAIA level, and hails from Irvine.

SEASON OPENERS

• Entering its 72nd year, the men's basketball program has not fared well in season openers since the first year of play in 1948-49.
• The Hornets are 23-48 all-time in season openers, including a 9-19 record since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.
• However, the Hornets have won five of their last eight season openers, which includes a 66-63 win at Arizona State in 2015.

LAST SEASON'S QUICKIES

• Sacramento State 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 was 3-0 against the Hornets. Montana won the Big Sky regular season and tournament championships, and beat the Hornets in the Big Sky Tourney quarterfinals by a 79-73 score in Boise, Idaho.
• After the Hornets opened league at 0-4, the team went 9-9 over its final 18 games against Big Sky opposition.
• Of the Hornets' 22 games against Big Sky opponents, 11 of those contests were decided by six points or less. Sacramento State went 4-7 in those outcomes.
• Sacramento State defeated Northern Arizona, 72-60, in the first round of last year's Big Sky Tournament. The Hornets have now won at least one conference tournament game in four of the last five seasons. Prior to that five-year stretch, Sacramento State had combined for two tourney wins during its first 18 years in the Big Sky.

STEALS AND TURNOVER MARGIN

• Last year, Sacramento State easily led the Big Sky with a turnover margin of +2.3 per game.
• The Hornets turned the ball over just 13.0 times per game while the opposition was at 15.3.
• The Hornets were also second in the league in steals (7.7 per game).
• Opponents turned the ball over at least 13 times in all but six games.
• Overall, the Hornets allowed 69.5 points per game, the second best mark in the Big Sky.

GETTING IT DONE OFFENSIVELY AND DEFENSIVELY

• Expect fourth-year senior guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa to get plenty of minutes this season. He played in 30 games a year ago, including 26 starts, averaging 31.2 minutes per contest.
• One of the best defenders in the Big Sky, Mauriohooho-Le'afa was a finalist for Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.
• Offensively, he averaged 8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 31.2 minutes per game. The steals were the fourth best mark in the Big Sky.
• The Wellington, New Zealand, native scored in double figures 11 times, including eight games with at least 15 points.
• Over his last five games of the season, he averaged 13.8 points, including 17 points in the Hornets' Big Sky Tournament win over Northern Arizona.

63 CONSECUTIVE STARTS AND TEAM CAPTAIN

• Senior center Joshua Patton was named team captain this season after serving as a co-captain a year ago. In addition, Patton has started 63 consecutive games, or every game each of the last two seasons. That streak is tied for the 25th longest in the nation.
• Patton was a third team all-Big Sky selection a year ago, and the only center in the league to be named all-league.
• He enjoyed his best collegiate season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocked shots and 28.9 minutes per game. He shot 61% (151-248) from the field, scored in double figures 23 times, and drew a team-high tying 18 charges.
• Among Big Sky leaders, Patton ranked second in field goal percentage, third in blocked shots, sixth in offensive rebounds (2.1 per game), ninth in  rebounding and 16th in scoring.
• The Hornets were 14-9 in games Patton had four fouls or less, and 1-7 in games in which he fouled out. After fouling out seven times in the first 19 games a year ago, Patton corrected the foul issues, being disqualified just once over the final 12 games of the season.
• Needs just 159 points to reach 1,000 points for his career. If that happens, he would join Eric Stuteville (1,013 from 2013-17) as the only two centers in school history with 1,000 points.

ESPOSITO COULD BE IN LINE FOR A BIG SEASON

• Junior forward Ethan Esposito served as the team's sixth man the majority of last season, but could be in line to start games this season.
• The Naples, Italy, native was one of six Hornets to play in all 31 games, averaging 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 16.5 minutes per game. He shot 48% (94-195) from the field and 76% (77-102) from the free throw line while scoring in double figures on 14 occasions.
• His statistics pro-rated over a 40-minute game were 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds.
• Of his 129 rebounds, 53 came on the offensive glass, and his average of 1.7 offensive rebounds per game ranked 14th in the Big Sky.

17 PLAYERS ON THIS YEAR'S ROSTER

• Sacramento State has 17 players on its roster this season, the most in the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.).
• Of those 17 players, there are five seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen. That includes six newcomers, four of which are walk-ons.
• The Hornets have 10 players that could see time at guard, six forwards and one at center.

FOUR POSITIONS FOWLER

• Junior guard/forward Bryce Fowler has played four different positions in his career thus far, or every position but center.
• One of six Hornets to play in all 31 games a year ago, he started 20 times, including the  start in each of the final 18 games of the season.
• He averaged 8.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 28.5 minutes per game while shooting 42% (99-236) from the field, and 35% (24-69) from the 3-point line.
• Fowler scored in double figures 12 times, including a career-best 19 points (4-5 3FG, 3-3 FT) in the Hornets' 79-73 loss to Montana in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals.
• His 28.5 minutes per game ranked as the fourth best mark on the team.

HORNETS GRADUATE, PRODUCE HIGH CLASSROOM MARKS

• The program continues to excel in the classroom under head coach Brian Katz.
• As of May 2019, the Hornets are the only men's basketball team from a public school in the state of California to earn NCAA Public Recognition honors. The award is given annually to institutions for having Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores that rank among the top 10 percent nationally. Not only are the Hornets the only public school in the state to achieve the award, they have received the honor three straight years (2017-19).
• In addition, the Hornets have posted a term grade point average of better than 3.0 six times in the last 10 semesters. Currently, the Hornets have a team overall grade point average of 3.045.
• Perhaps the most impressive of the academic accolades - of the 39 Hornets that have expired their eligibility during Katz's tenure, 38 have graduated.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Freshman guard Rick Barros III (foot) and junior guard Jamion Wright (arm) are both out indefinitely with injuries.
• If the exhibition game was any indication, sophomore Brandon Davis could assume the starting guard duties that was left by the graduated and all-conference selection Marcus Graves. Davis redshirted last year after transferring from UC Santa Barbara.
• Local product Christian Terrell, who attended Sacramento High School, will redshirt this year after spending his first three collegiate seasons at UC Santa Barbara.
• Sophomore James Bridges will wear #25 this season after wearing #20 a year ago.
• Sacramento State went 9-5 at home last season, and is a combined 67-30 (.691 winning percentage) inside the Nest dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
• Sophomore forward Jordan Cooke-Harper, a transfer from Southwestern JC, is the son of former longtime NBA veteran Ron Harper. Cooke-Harper is the tallest player on the Hornets' roster at 6-foot-9, and will likely be the primary backup to center Joshua Patton.
• Junior forward Osi Nwachukwu is one of four starters back. He was one of the team's top defenders a year ago while averaging 6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
• Guard Elijah McCullough is back after missing all but two games last year with injury.
• In 88 career games, fourth-year senior forward Chibueze Jacobs has impressive career shooting percentages of .475 FG%, .432 3FG% and .750 FT%.