SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After going 6-4 through the first half of Big Sky play Sacramento State (14-5, 6-4 Big Sky) concludes a season-long four game road trip this week playing at Northern Arizona (6-13, 3-7 Big Sky) at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time Thursday and at Southern Utah (12-7, 6-4 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Hornets are in a four-way tie for third place in the Big Sky, with North Dakota sitting atop the table at 9-2 and Montana in second at 7-3. When Sacramento State hosted NAU and SUU in The Nest in January, the Hornets claimed a 104-79 win over the Lumberjacks but saw their nine-game winning streak end in a 97-79 loss to the Thunderbirds.
Both games this week will be broadcast live starting 10 minutes prior to the tip on HornetSports.com/Radio with Andrew Tomsky providing the play-by-play call. Streaming video will also be available on WatchBigSky.com with links to all media, including live stats, available on the women's basketball schedule page. Thursday's game at Northern Arizona will also be televised live on Fox Sports Arizona and on tape delay on Fox College Sports.
Sacramento State leads NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (12.9), steals per game (14.6), and turnover margin (+10.11) and is second in points per game (89.6)...Fantasia Hilliard broke the Sacramento State career assist record against Northern Colorado on Jan. 25 and is eighth in the NCAA this season with 6.8 assists per game...The Hornets scored a Big Sky record 111 points last Saturday at Weber State, their fifth game above 100 points and their third broken or re-broken Big Sky record this season...Alle Moreno, who broke the Big Sky career 3-point attempt record last week and is Sacramento State's all-time leader in 3-point makes, is just eight steals shy of that program record...Six players scored in double figures as the Hornets defeated Northern Arizona in January before their program-record nine-game winning streak was ended by Southern Utah.
Scouting Northern Arizona (6-13, 3-7 Big Sky)
The Hornets outscored Northern Arizona 61-36 in the second half in the first meeting between the teams in a 104-79 win. Six Sacramento State players scored in double figures in that game while NAU junior Erikka Banks totaled 28 points and 11 rebounds. The Lumberjacks are just 2-6 on their home floor this season but did have an 82-77 home win over Southern Utah. Northern Arizona leads the Big Sky in field goal percentage (.443) and is second in the league with 9.4 steals per game. Amanda Frost, the only senior on a Lumberjack team that features eight true freshmen, leads the Big Sky with 22.7 points per game while Banks leads in field goal percentage and is third in rebounding.
Scouting Southern Utah (12-7, 6-4 Big Sky)
Southern Utah shocked Sacramento State with a 97-79 win in The Nest on Jan. 11, ending the Hornets program-record 11 game winning streak. The Thunderbirds were the first Hornet opponent that tried playing slow offensively and running down the clock, and it worked in the second half in which SUU outscored SAC 62-37. Southern Utah shot 64.7% in the game, the highest field goal percentage against the Hornets this season. At 6-4 the Thunderbirds begin the week tied with Sacramento State for third place in the Big Sky and will be able to rest until Saturday's game without a contest on Thursday. The T-Birds lead the Big Sky in free throw percentage and rank second in scoring margin and rebounding margin.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 12.9 three-pointers made per game, 14.6 steals per game, and a 10.11 turnover margin. The Hornets are averaging 3.4 more 3-pointers and 1.9 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks second in the NCAA with 89.6 points per game, is 12th with 18.8 assists per game, and is 13th with a 1.29 assist to turnover ratio. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories, other than assist to turnover ratio, as well as offensive rebounds (17.6 ORPG)
Passing All Passers
With four assists against Northern Colorado on Jan. 25 Sacramento State junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard broke the all-time program record with her 454th career assist. She tied the record with three assists in the first half and broke it at the 13:32 mark of the second half, assisting on a layup by Margaret Huntington that gave the Hornets a game-high 12-point lead. Heather Baker had owned the record since completing her Sacramento State career in 1993 and was in attendance as Hilliard surpassed her total. Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, bettering Baker's previous single-season school record of 160, and is on pace to surpass that number again this season. Her current assist total stands 13th in Big Sky history with still another season to play, and she ranks eighth in the NCAA this year with 6.8 assists per game.
Sacramento State re-broke its third Big Sky single game record of the season against Weber State last Saturday, breaking conference records with 111 points and 215 combined points in the contest. The Hornets had already broken both records with 110 points and 214 combined points against North Dakota, which surpassed the 109 points Idaho scored against Portland State in 1986 as the highest scoring game in conference history. The Hornets have also surpassed single game conference records this season in 3-pointers made and attempted.
The Hornets may have to play the rest of the 2013-14 season without three key players as senior Se'Nyce Parrish and juniors Andrea Chenier and Shanti Smith are all out indefinitely. Parrish started the Hornets' season opener but played in just two games before getting hurt, while Chenier averaged 10.0 points and a Big Sky-best 2.9 steals per game in 13 games before her injury. Smith missed her first two games of the season last week and was averaging 9.7 points per game with 26 three-pointers and a team-high 13 blocks.
Return to the Road
Sacramento State played six of its first eight Big Sky games on its home floor but has eight of the final 14 conference games away from Sacramento. The Hornets are 10-1 at home and average 95.1 points per game on their home floor, but have gone 4-4 on the road scoring 82.1 points per game. The squad shoots 35.5% from 3-point range at home but just 29.3% on the road, making 14.7 threes per game at home and 10.4 in away games. Sacramento State was held to just 53 points and a .273 field goal percentage last week at Idaho State but rebounded with 111 points off 18 three-point makes at Weber State.
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 and came within one of the NCAA record against UC Irvine, re-breaking the Big Sky record with 21 3-point makes and 55 3-point attempts. Sacramento State has had 11 different players make at least one three, including eight with 18 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have scored 735 of 1,703 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 245 made long balls have accounted for 43.2% of the team's points while just 37.6% of the total points have come on 2-point shots. The NCAA record for 3-pointers made per game in a season is 10.7 and Sacramento State is currently averaging 12.9.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 14.6 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 16 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but three games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +147 in steal margin (277-130) 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 now lead the NCAA at +20.11 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 6.9 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 11.8 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +211 this year in points off turnovers (477-266). The team has scored 28.0% of its total points this season off of opponent giveaways 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 13th in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (1.29).
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. 18 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 11-4 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).
Senior guard Alle Moreno became Sacramento State's all-time leading 3-point shooter on Nov. 10 when she hit her fourth of six 3-point makes against San Diego State. Moreno surpassed the previous career 3-point record of 176 set by former Hornet Kim Sheehy, who concluded her collegiate career in 2007, while she had already established a new record for career 3-point attempts during her junior year. With 215 career 3-pointers to date Moreno is now 6th in Big Sky history. Moreno also became the 11th player in program history to crack the 1,000-point plateau this season when she scored her fourth of 22 points on Dec. 14 against UC Irvine. She is also now just eight assists shy of equaling that program record and last week broke the Big Sky record for career 3-point attempts.
Sacramento State has used 14 different starting lineups in 19 games this season and no starting lineup has been used more than twice. The starters for each game are picked from a statistical formula using the individual totals from the previous game, and with 11 different players seeing starts this season the combinations are, barring multiple injuries, almost endless. No Hornet has started every game this year as Fantasia Hilliard and Takara Burse are tied for the team lead with 16 starts apiece.
Freshman Hallie Gennett has been among the best three-point shooters in the nation in just her rookie season. She ranks 25th in the NCAA and leads the Big Sky with 2.95 three-point makes per game, including seven games making five of more 3-point shots. The bulk of Gennett's threes have come in just those seven games, as she hit 41 threes in those games and just 15 threes in the Hornets' 12 other games. Of her 77 made field goals on the season, 56 have been 3-pointers, while 160 of her 198 field goal attempts (80.1%) have come from beyond the arc, where she is shooting 35.0% on the season.