A Brief Preview
In the midst of a losing streak which has seen the team lose three games by a combined 11 points, the Sacramento State men''s basketball squad (13-8, 4-3) looks to get back on the winning track on Thursday, Feb. 2, at Eastern Washington. The Hornets and Eagles will tip off at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., a place where Sacramento State has not won since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996-97. Since defeating the Eagles, 68-67, in Cheney during the 1994-95 season, the Hornets have lost nine straight on Eastern''s home floor, including a 44-41 setback last season.
After beginning the year with a 13-5 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the Big Sky, the Hornets have endured three-consecutive setbacks. That includes losing a two-game Big Sky homestand (78-75 loss to Montana State, 73-71 loss to Montana) for just the second time in four years. Two major reasons for the Hornets'' season-long three-game losing streak has been the team''s lack of defense and rebounding. In fact, during the losing streak, opponents are shooting .544 (80-147) from the field and are outrebounding Sacramento State by more than 12 rebounds per game (38.3-26.0). Even with those numbers, the Hornets have amazingly still been within striking distance in each of the three games.
Sacramento State had not suffered a multiple-game losing streak all season long prior to the past couple weeks and the team''s 13-8 record is still its best after 21 games during the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and the best since 1988-89. The Hornets, who are one win shy of the team''s first regular-season winning percentage of at least .500 during the Div. I era, will bring a 6-6 record away from home into Thursday''s game. One more road win would give the Hornets their most victories away from home since the 1987-88 season.
At the midway point of the Big Sky season, Northern Arizona currently sits in first place with a perfect 7-0 record and each of those victories have come by 10 points or less. Following NAU in the Big Sky standings are Montana (6-1), Montana State (5-2), Sacramento State (4-3) and Eastern Washington (3-4). Portland State, Idaho State and Weber State each have 1-6 records and appear to be battling each other for the sixth and final spot into the Big Sky Tournament, which begins on March 4. With seven league games remaining on the schedule, the top two seeds in the Big Sky Tournament get a first-round bye, while the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed, and No. 4 hosts No. 5 in the quarterfinals. If the season ended today, the Hornets would host Eastern Washington in the first round.
Eastern Washington (8-12, 3-4) is 2-0 on its home floor against Big Sky competition, including an 80-64 win vs. Idaho State, and 59-50 over Weber State. Conversely, the Eagles are 1-4 on the road vs. league teams, including an 88-69 loss at Sacramento State on Jan. 7.
The Eagles, who were selected sixth in the Big Sky preseason coaches poll, are shooting 48.2 percent overall from the field this year and 49.1 percent against conference competition. EWU is led by freshman sensation Rodney Stuckey, who continues to assert himself as one of the best players in the league. Stuckey, who is from Kent, Wash., leads the team and the Big Sky in overall scoring (23.6 ppg) and scoring against conference competition (28.1 ppg). Stuckey has led the Eagles in scoring each of the last 17 games, and has scored at least 17 points in each of those contests.
Stuckey had 21 points against Sacramento State on Jan. 7, but shot 8-of-19 from the field and committed seven turnovers. Stuckey has accounted for more than 32 percent of the team''s average of 73.7 points per game. EWU''s top three scorers are each shooting better than 49.0 percent from the field, comprised of Stuckey (.491), Kellen Williams (9.7 ppg, .531) and Paul Butorac (9.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .550).
All 12 pages of Sacramento State''s game notes for Thursday can be obtained by clicking on the link above the story.