SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In the midst of a stretch in which they have just one road game – only 20 miles away in Davis – and seven home games between Nov. 27 and Jan. 16, Sacramento State (10-1, 2-0 Big Sky) puts its program-record eight game winning streak on the line as it hosts Northern Arizona (3-8, 0-2 Big Sky) at 7 p.m. Thursday and Southern Utah (7-4, 1-1 Big Sky) at 2 p.m. Saturday in The Nest.
Sacramento State enters the week ranked No. 32 in all of NCAA Div. I in RPI, ahead of 315 schools, and is No. 13 in the CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25...The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (14.5) and steals per game (16.4) and are third in points per game (93.4) and turnover margin (+10.27)...Sacramento State's 10-1 record is the best start to a season in program history while its current eight-game winning streak has also broken the program record...The Hornets have scored 46.4% of their total points this season on 3-pointers (just 38.0% on 2-point shots) and have outscored their opposition 260-136 in points off turnovers...Northern Arizona is on a five-game losing streak and has the most turnovers in the BSC. Southern Utah ranks second in the BSC with 73 points per game and leads in 3-point defense.
All Big Sky games have a free live video stream available at WatchBigSky.com. This week's games will also stream live on HornetSports.com/Radio with Brian Berger providing the play-by-play on Thursday and Nate Goodyear on the call on Saturday. Live stats are available above and for more content and game updates like Sacramento State Athletics on facebook and follow @HornetSports and #BigSkyWBB on twitter.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State enters play this week leading all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 14.5 three-pointers made per game and 16.4 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 3.5 more 3-pointers and 2.9 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks third in the NCAA with a 10.27 turnover margin and 93.4 points per game, is fifth in assists per game (20.4), and seventh in assist to turnover ratio (1.40). Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as offensive rebounds (19.0 ORPG).
The Hornets rank No. 32 in the official NCAA RPI, the highest the program has ever ranked and the highest in the Big Sky since Montana reached No. 12 in 2006-07. Sacramento State ranks ahead of 315 other NCAA Div. I programs, including No. 7-ranked Baylor (33 in RPI), which is 12-1, and eight Pac-12 teams, including both Oregon and Oregon State. The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) takes into account winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage, and opponents' opponents' winning percentage. Sacramento State ranks highly based on its 10-1 record but also its strength of schedule, having faced many strong opponents in non-conference.
With eight straight victories Sacramento State has established a new program-record winning streak, surpassing the seven-game winning streak recorded by the 2009-10 squad.
The Hornets' 10-1 record is the best start to a season in program history, surpassing the 8-1 start of the 1976-77 team. The 2013-14 squad also won more non-conference games than any year in the Div. I era and equaled the most since the 1982-83 squad was 8-5 in non-conference play.
Rank and File
Behind a 10-1 record and eye popping stats the Hornets have earned a No. 13 ranking in the latest CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25 poll, moving up from No. 18 last week. The Big Sky is one of 23 conferences classified as Mid-Major along with many other western conferences including the West Coast Conference (WCC), the Big West Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Hornets are 7-0 this season against other Mid-Major schools and also have two wins against Mountain West Schools (High-Major) and one against the Pac-12 (Major).
Dishing and Scoring
Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard was named Big Sky Player of the Week last week after leading the Hornets to two wins while averaging 19.0 points and 8.5 assists. For the season she ranks fifth in the NCAA with 7.6 assists per game. She equaled her career-high of 12 assists against Montana State and now sits in second place on Sacramento State's career assist leaderboard with 418 career helpers. Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, easily bettering Heather Baker's previous single-season school record of 160 set during the 1991-92 season, and she should break Baker's career record of 453 assists during the 2013-14 season. Hilliard has also picked up her scoring this season and ranks second on the team with 13.4 points per game while leading the squad with three double-doubles. Over the last six games she is shooting 52.1% from the field with 18.4 points and 8.0 assists per game.
Clutch In Crunch Time
Sacramento State is 6-0 this season in games decided by six points or less. In the last two minutes of those six games the Hornets outscored their opposition 39-23 and in the final minute had a 23-9 scoring edge.
Sacramento State has used 10 different lineups in 11 games this season, having used its first repeat lineup last Thursday. The starters for each game are picked from a statistical formula using the individual totals from the previous game, and with 10 different players seeing starts this season the combinations are, barring injury, almost endless. No Hornet has started every game this year as Alle Moreno, Fantasia Hilliard, and Takara Burse lead with nine starts apiece.
Freshman Hallie Gennett is already among the best three-point shooters in the nation in just her rookie season. She ranks ninth in the NCAA and leads the Big Sky with 3.3 three-point makes per game, including five games making five of more 3-point shots. The bulk of Gennett's threes have come in just those five games, as she hit 30 threes in those games and just six threes in the Hornets' six other games. Of her 46 made field goals on the season, 36 have been 3-pointers, while 97 of her 116 field goal attempts (83.6%) have come from beyond the arc, where she is shooting 37.1%.
Historic three-point shooting has been a catalyst to the Hornets early success, as the team has led the nation in 3-pointers made per game throughout the 2013-14 season. The squad has thrice broken the single-game program record in 3-point makes, hitting 17 threes against Cal State Northridge, 18 against San Diego State, and 21 against UC Irvine. The Hornets also re-broke the Big Sky record with 21 3-point makes and 55 3-point attempts against UC Irvine. Sacramento State is shooting 33.9% from three-point range and has had 10 different players make at least one three, including eight with 10 or more three-point makes already this season. The Hornets have made at least 11 three-pointers in every game and have scored 477 of 1,027 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 159 made long balls have accounted for 46.4% of the team's points while just 38.0% of the points have come on 2-point shots.
While lighting up the scoreboard from beyond the arc on the offensive end, the Hornets have also shut down opponent 3-point tries on the defensive end. The Hornets have a .312 opponent three-point percentage and have allowed just 54 opponent three's through 11 games. Four of Sacramento State's opponents have shot .300 or lower from long range. The Hornets have made 105 more three-pointers than their opposition (159-54) and have outscored opponents 477-162 overall from beyond the arc.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 16.4 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in all but one game this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but one game this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +96 in steal margin for (180-84) and as a result have also had fewer turnovers than their opponent in every game this year.
Scouting Northern Arizona (3-8, 0-2 Big Sky)
Northern Arizona opened conference play with home losses to Montana and Montana State last week and are on a five game losing streak. The Lumberjacks returned just three players from their 2012-13 squad and have eight true freshmen this season. Among NAU's three wins was an 80-66 triumph at Utah Valley, a team Sacramento State defeated by just three points, but the squad lost to Cal State Northridge by a 64-52 score. Amanda Frost, the only senior on the NAU roster, leads the team and ranks second in the Big Sky with 20.4 points per game while leading the Big Sky and standing 11th nationally with a .915 free-throw percentage. The Lumberjacks rank last in the Big Sky with 20.7 turnovers per game.
Scouting Southern Utah (7-4, 1-1 Big Sky)
Southern Utah is the second highest scoring team in the Big Sky, after Sacramento State, with 73.0 points per game and leads the conference in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 28.8% from long range. The Thunderbirds opened conference play with a win at Northern Colorado and took a 3-point loss last Thursday at North Dakota. Saturday's contest will be the first game in nine days for the T-Birds, who also faced Utah Valley in non-conference play and had a 74-63 win. Southern Utah has been led this season by senior Carli Moreland, who leads the team with 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while sophomore Lori Parkinson averages 11.3 points and 6.9 boards.