SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Following a challenging road trip Sacramento State returns home to The Nest, where it is 8-1 this season. The Hornets (11-4, 3-3 Big Sky) will host Big Sky-leading North Dakota (11-5, 6-1 Big Sky) at 7 p.m. Thursday and Northern Colorado (9-7, 3-4 Big Sky) at 2 p.m. Saturday looking to break a three-game losing streak following their nine-game winning streak.
The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (13.3) and steals per game (15.3), are second in turnover margin (+9.33) and are third in points per game (90.3)...Fantasia Hilliard ranks 7th in the NCAA in assists per game (7.0) and needs just 15 assists to break the Sacramento State career assist record held by Heather Baker (453)...Sacramento State is 8-1 at home this season averaging 95.8 points per game, 15.7 three-pointers per game, and 21.7 assists per game with a +10.8 turnover margin...The Hornets have scored 44.0% of their total points this season on 3-pointers (just 37.9% on 2-point shots) and have outscored their opposition by 158 in points off turnovers...North Dakota, which opened Big Sky play at 6-0 and is 3-0 in road conference games, is fourth in the NCAA with 6.3 blocks per game and is +10.6 in rebounding margin.
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 Nate Goodyear providing the play-by-play call. 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.
Scouting North Dakota (11-5, 6-1 Big Sky)
North Dakota opened conference play at 6-0 before a 76-65 loss against Montana State last Saturday. The team is 3-0 in road Big Sky games so far and is the top rebounding team in the conference and ranks ninth in the NCAA, averaging 45.8 boards per game with a +10.6 rebounding margin. UND also ranks fourth in the nation and leads the Big Sky with 6.3 blocks per game, featuring four players that stand 6-2 or taller. Senior Madi Buck leads the team with 16.0 points per game with sophomore Mia Loyd totaling 14.5 points per game and leading the Big Sky with 10.1 rebounds per game. Sacramento State swept North Dakota last season in the first ever meetings between the programs.
Scouting Northern Colorado (9-7, 3-4 Big Sky)
Northern Colorado took a huge blow when senior D'shara Strange, arguably the top player in the Big Sky, was lost for the season due to a torn acl during preseason workouts. The Bears lost their first three Big Sky games but have won three of the last four, including two road conference wins. Northern Colorado is one of the better defensive teams in the league, ranking second in scoring defense (65.2 ppg) and opponent field goal percentage (.376), but is the second lowest scoring team in the league averaging just 62.4 points per game. Junior Stephanie Lee leads the team and ranks second in the league with 20.7 points per game and 1.9 blocks per game. The Hornets haven't defeated UNC since the 2009-10 season, having lost six straight matchups.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 13.3 three-pointers made per game and 15.3 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 3.2 more 3-pointers and 2.1 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks second in the NCAA with a 9.33 turnover margin, is third with 90.3 points per game, and is 10th with 19.1 assists per game. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as offensive rebounds.
Hitting a Rough Patch
Following a nine game winning streak and an 11-1 start to the season Sacramento State has dropped its last three contests. The team has averaged just 74.7 points per game during the losing streak, nearly 20 points less than the 94.2 points per game it averaged prior. A big reason for the scoring drop has been 3-point shooting, as the team was shooting 34.0% from beyond the arc and making 14.7 threes per game but has shot just 28.8% and made 7.7 threes per game during the stretch. Opponents are also shooting a robust 55.5% from the field and 50.0% from 3-point range along with 51.3 points in the paint per contests, and Sacramento State is just +3 in points off turnovers and -20 in second chance points during the streak.
Approaching a Milestone
Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard, who last week was named to the Lieberman Award Watch List among the top point guards in the nation, enters the week just 15 assists shy of breaking the program's career-assist record. With 11 assists last weekend Hilliard brought her career total to 439 assists, just 14 shy of the career record of 453 assists set by Heather Baker (1989-93). Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, easily bettering Baker's previous single-season school record of 160 set during the 1991-92 season, and she is on pace to surpass that number again this season. She currently ranks seventh in the NCAA with 7.0 assists per game this season and has recorded four games with double-digit assists this season. Hilliard has also picked up her scoring this season and ranks second on the team with 12.7 points per game while leading the squad with three double-doubles.
Happy to be Home
Prior to last week Sacramento State had played just one road game between Nov. 27 and Jan. 16, and the team will be happy to return to the confines of The Nest this week. The Hornets are 8-1 at home and average 95.8 points per game on their home floor, compared to 3-3 on the road scoring 82.2 points per game. The squad shoots 35.6% from 3-point range at home but just 28.7% on the road, making 15.7 threes per game at home and 9.7 in away games. The Hornets have topped 90 points in eight of nine home games but have done so just once on the road.
Historic three-point shooting has been the Hornets calling card, 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 has had 11 different players make at least one three, including eight with 14 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have made at least six three-pointers in every game and have scored 597 of 1,355 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 199 made long balls have accounted for 44.0% of the team's points while just 37.9% of the points have come on 2-point shots.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 15.3 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 12 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but two games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +118 in steal margin for (230-112) and as a result have also had fewer turnovers than their opponent in all but one game this year.
To Every Season Turn, Turn, Turn
Over the last three seasons Sacramento State improved its turnover margin from -3.1 to +1.8 to +3.8, and this season that number has skyrocketed. The Hornets rank second in the NCAA at +9.33 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 5.4 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 11.1 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +158 this year in points off turnovers (370-212). The team has scored 27.3 % of its total points off of opponent giveaways this season with a season-best 48-17 edge against NAU and a 37-7 advantage at UC Davis. Sacramento State also ranks second in the Big Sky and is 16th in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (1.28).
Rank and File
Sacramento State has ranked as high as No. 13 this season in the CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25 poll and is No. 19 currently. The Big Sky is one of 23 conferences classified as Mid-Major along with many western conferences including the West Coast Conference (WCC), the Big West Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Hornets are 8-3 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).