SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Qualifying for the Big Sky Tournament for the third consecutive season, Sacramento State (18-11, 10-10 Big Sky) prepares to face second-seeded Southern Utah (21-8, 15-5 Big Sky) in the quarterfinal round of the conference championship. The Hornets and Thunderbirds will play the first of three quarterfinal games on Thursday, opening tournament play at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time.
All Hornet Big Sky Tournament games 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.
Sacramento State leads NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (12.5) and steals per game (13.2), is third in turnover margin (+8.62) and eighth in points per game (83.3)...The Hornets broke the NCAA record for made 3-pointers in a season on Thursday at Montana, surpassing the previous record of 342 made by Florida Gulf Coast in 2012...Sacramento State earned its third consecutive berth in the Big Sky Tournament, the longest such streak in program history, and is looking to win a QF game for the third straight year...In 2012 the Hornets beat Eastern Washington in the QF round and in 2013 defeated Idaho State, earning Sacramento State's first two postseason victories in program history...Over 29 regular season games Sacramento State scored and allowed the exact same number of points, 2,416. The team was +33 scoring in non-conference play and -33 in Big Sky games.
Sacramento State will be playing in the Big Sky Tournament for the third consecutive year, the longest such streak in program history. The team has also earned tournament wins (the first in program history) in each of the last two seasons, topping Eastern Washington, 71-61, in the 2012 quarterfinal round and Idaho State, 73-60, in the 2013 quarterfinals. The Hornets had to face the host school following both of those wins, and should the squad defeat Southern Utah on Thursday they would again face the host school, in this case top-seeded North Dakota.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 12.5 three-pointers made per game and 13.2 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 2.3 more 3-pointers and 1.2 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks third in the NCAA with a +8.62 turnover margin, is eighth with 83.3 points per game, and is 19th with 16.6 assists per game. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as offensive rebounds (16.8 ORPG) and is second in assist-turnover ratio (1.24).
Ascending the Three-Point Throne
Sacramento State established a new NCAA Div. I single season record on Thursday at Montana, surpassing the all-time record for made 3-pointers with its seventh of 15 made long balls in the game. The Hornets now stand at 362 made threes this season, topping the previous record of 342 set by Florida Gulf Coast in 2012. The team had already surpassed the NCAA season record for the 3-point attempts that was 981 by Morehead State, having now attempted 1,143 3-balls on the year. The Hornets will surely also break the NCAA season record for 3-pointers made per game, averaging 12.5 currently with the all-time record at 10.7.
The squad has also 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 eight players make double-digit threes, including seven with 20 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have scored 1,086 of 2,416 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 362 made long balls have accounted for 45% of the team's points while just 37% of the total points have come on 2-point shots.
Big Sky Breakdown
Unfortunately for the Hornets, the team drew arguably its least desirable matchup to open Big Sky Tournament play against Southern Utah. The Hornets led the Thunderbirds 42-35 at the half when the teams met in Sacramento, then the T-Birds outscored the Hornets 62-37 in the second half and cruised to a 93-74 win when the teams met in Cedar City. In the two games the Thunderbirds combined to shoot 65.7% from the field and were +18.5 in scoring and +10.0 in rebounding.
Should the Hornets get past the T-Birds the team would face host North Dakota, with whom the Hornets split their season series, in the semifinal round. Sacramento State also went 1-1 against Montana, Montana State, and Idaho State but was also swept by Eastern Washington. The silver lining? If the Hornets can get past the top two seeds in the league to reach the championship game, that matchup would, on paper, be the easiest of the week.
Through 29 regular season games Sacramento State has scored and allowed the exact same number of points, 2,416. The team scored 33 more points than its opposition in non-conference play and 33 less points than its Big Sky opponents.
Making an Adjustment
The Hornets have played a different style and used a different substitution pattern over the last four games. Rather than using a full court press, doubling the ball on defense, and subbing three to five players every 45 seconds, the squad played more traditional half court defense and subbed just single players less frequently. The team primarily has used just eight players in each game. Injuries and a drop in scoring spurred the change as the team has had two home wins and a narrow loss at Montana in four games playing the modified style.
Sacramento State has had trouble replicating its home success in road venues, having gone 5-9 overall and just 2-8 in the Big Sky in road games this season. The team averaged 11.8 fewer points per game on the road than at home with sizeable home/road differences as well in field goal percentage (.393/.352), 3-point percentage (.338/.293), 3-pointers made per game (13.6/11.3), steals per game (14.9/11.5), and scoring margin (+6.4/-6.9). The squad was outscored by 9.5 points per game in eight Big Sky road games while its opponents shot 56% from the field. Thursday's game against Southern Utah will be the first neutral site game of the season for the Hornets.
Hornet seniors Sadie Clements, Alle Moreno, and Se'Nyce Parrish were honored prior to their final home game on March 1, and while Parrish did not play and has missed most of the season due to injury, Clements and Moreno led Sacramento State to the win. Clements scored the first seven points and the Hornets' first 10 points of the game, totaling 16 points in the first half and tying her career high with 19 points in the game. She hit the go-ahead 3-point shot with 36 seconds left in the game off an assist by Moreno, who totaled 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in the contest and had a a key 3-point play to lead the 13-0 Hornet run to win the game.
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. 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 has broken that record again with 185 assists this season. Her current career assist total of 519 stands 9th in Big Sky history and she ranks 13th in the NCAA this season with 6.4 assists per game.
Hornet Freshmen Hallie Gennett and Gigi Hascheff have been major contributors to the Hornets throughout the 2013-14 season. Gennett ranks 23rd in the NCAA and leads the Big Sky with 2.90 three-point makes per game, including eight games making five or more 3-point shots. She made a Big Sky season-high eight 3-point shots in her first collegiate game vs. Cal State Northridge. Of her 115 made field goals on the season, 84 have been 3-pointers, while 258 of her 317 field goal attempts (81.4%) have come from beyond the arc.
Hascheff is averaging 11.0 points per game this season and is shooting 74% from the free throw line. She has been especially superb in Big Sky play, averaging 12.0 points per game and shooting 37% from the field and 77% from the line. Hascheff is also third on the team with 2.6 assists per game and averages 1.2 steals per game.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 13.2 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 23 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but six games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +206 in steal margin (384-178) 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 third in the NCAA at +8.62 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 5.5 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 11.8 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +256 this year in points off turnovers (630-374). The team has scored 26.1% of its total points this season off of opponent giveaways with a season-best 48-17 edge against NAU.