A Brief Preview
After a gut-wrenching three-point overtime loss to Weber State at home on Thursday, Sacramento State (14-10, 5-5) remains in the friendly confines of the Hornets Nest to face Idaho State on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:05 p.m. The Hornets have lost three-straight home games for the first time since the 2002-03 season, and each of those defeats have come by three points or less. After beginning the year with a 13-5 overall record and a 4-0 record in the Big Sky Conference, Sacramento State has fallen on hard times, losing five of its last six games. Four of those five losses have come by six points or less and the team has struggled late in games during that stretch.
Saturday''s game against Idaho State (10-12, 2-8) will mark the second meeting between the two teams as the Hornets knocked off the Bengals in Pocatello, Idaho, earlier this year by the score of 107-106 on Alex Bausley''s baseline jumper at the buzzer. Sacramento State has won four-straight games in the series between the two teams and hasn''t lost to the Bengals since an 82-81 defeat in Pocatello during the 2003-04 season. Idaho State still leads the all-time series, 17-9.
Like every game this season, Saturday''s contest can be heard live on KTKZ 1380 AM and 105.5 FM as well as www.hornetsports.com. Steve McElroy, who is currently in his ninth season as voice of the Hornets, will handle the play-by-play while Jason Ross will provide color.
With just four games remaining on the conference schedule, Sacramento State can clinch its fourth-straight appearance in the Big Sky Tournament with a win over the Bengals on Saturday night. The Hornets, who have hosted a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game each of the last two years, failed to reach the postseason tourney during the team''s first six years in the league (Sacramento State''s first year in the Big Sky was 1996-97).
The top six teams in the eight-member league reach the conference tournament. The Hornets are currently trailing Northern Arizona (9-1), Montana (6-3), Montana State (6-3) and Eastern Washington (5-4). Sacramento State still has remaining games against Northern Arizona (home on Feb. 25), Montana (away on Feb. 15) and Montana State (final regular season game on Feb. 27 in Bozeman, Mont.).
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, Eastern Washington would host Sacramento State in a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game. Since joining the Big Sky, the Hornets have never defeated Eastern Washington in Cheney, making these final four games that much more important.
Sacramento State is assured of finishing with a regular-season winning percentage of at least .500 for the first time since the 1988-89 season. In addition, the Hornets'' 14 victories are the most in the Div. I era (1991-pres.) and the most since 1989-90. Sacramento State''s 5-5 Big Sky record is still the best after 10 games since joining the league in 1996-97.
After beginning with a 7-2 record to start the season, Idaho State has lost 10 of its last 13 games with six of those losses coming by single digits. In fact, Bengal head coach Doug Oliver, who is in his eighth season at the helm, announced on Jan. 17 that he would step down at the conclusion of the season.
Including an 88-80 loss at Northern Arizona on Thursday, Idaho State is 3-7 on the road this year, including 1-5 against Big Sky competition. The Bengals'' lone conference win on the road came at Portland State (68-66) three weeks ago.
Idaho State is led by its big three of Slim Millien (16.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Tim Henry (14.2 ppg) and David Schroeder (14.0 ppg). In fact, those three combine for over 55 percent of the team''s total output of 79.3 points per game. ISU is shooting 45.3 percent from the field (587-1296) and 37.7 percent (162-430) from beyond the arc. Of ISU''s 12 losses this year, seven have come by single digits.