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MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY PLAY AT HOME THURSDAY VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

MEN'S HOOPS OPENS BIG SKY PLAY AT HOME THURSDAY VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA

Sacramento State Game Notes (pdf)
Northern Arizona Game Notes (pdf)
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• After 11 non-conference games, Sacramento State (6-5) will finally open Big Sky Conference play on Thursday at home against Northern Arizona (5-8) at 7:05 p.m.
• This season marks the Hornets' 19th year in the Big Sky as the program switched gears from the American West Conference and joined the Big Sky in 1996-97.
• The Hornets will play 18 Big Sky games this year, resulting in the normal Thursday-Saturday matchups. Previously, the league schedule featured 20 conference games, but the addition of Idaho created a 12-member league. Each team in the Big Sky will play seven teams twice, and the other four teams on one occasion.
• The Hornets have improved their conference record every season under Coach Katz.
• Last season, Sacramento State finished 10-10 in league play, and qualified for the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
• The Hornets return all five starters from a year ago, and eight of their nine top scorers.
• Sacramento State is entering conference play with a record above .500 (6-5) for just the fourth time since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97.
• The Hornets are 4-1 at home this year with the only loss coming by an 80-75 margin to a Portland team that is currently 10-4 and resides in the West Coast Conference.
• Sacramento State is coming off a 74-49 road win at Utah Valley. The 25-point margin of victory was the second largest on the road since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991-92.
• The Hornets are 4-14 in Big Sky openers, and 4-6 when those openers come at home.
• Despite the 5-8 record, Northern Arizona has a road win at Saint Mary's (73-71) and a convincing home win against Fresno State (73-52) under its belt. The Lumberjacks have played a brutal non-conference travel schedule that included trips to Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia.
• The Lumberjacks are 1-6 on the road with the lone win coming at Saint Mary's.
• In a series which dates back to the 1991-92 season, the Hornets are 11-33 all-time against Northern Arizona, including a 9-13 mark when playing in Sacramento.
• The Hornets have won just two of the last 19 games against the Lumberjacks overall, but two of those wins came at home over the last three seasons in convincing fashion - 87-70 last year, and 77-43 in 2011-12.
• The Hornets have gotten familiar with NAU over the years as the 44 games against the Lumberjacks are the ninth most among all opponents the Hornets have played.
• Last year, the two teams split the season series with each team winning on its home floor - a 75-65 NAU win in Flagstaff on Jan. 9; an 87-70 win in Sacramento on Feb. 6.

TV/RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Like every home game this season, a free live video stream will be available in HD on Sunday at www.WatchBigSky.com. Fans will need to create an account before watching for the first time. In addition, all road games played at a Big Sky Conference venue will be streamed free at www.WatchBigSky.com.
• Every game this season will be broadcast live on KTKZ 1380 AM with 18th-year play-by-play man Steve McElroy calling all the action.
• Fans outside the Sacramento area can listen to all games via www.hornetsports.com or on the iHeart Radio application for mobile devices.
• Live stats will be provided for every game this season, via www.hornetsports.com for home games, or provided by the opponent's website for games on the road.
• Links for all multimedia options can be found next to each game on the men's basketball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.

A LOOK AT THE HORNETS' LAST GAME

• Sacramento State received a career-high 28 points from Dylan Garrity and used a 34-10 run to win at Utah Valley by a 74-49 score on Saturday.
• Garrity, who was named the Big Sky Player of the Week, scored 28 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field, 6-of-7 from the 3-point line and 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
• The Hornets, who trailed by 10 points midway through the first half, shot .558 (24-43) from the field, .588 (10-17) from the 3-point line and .842 (16-19) from the free throw line. The 3-pointers made and 3-point field goal percentage were both season highs.
Mikh McKinney finished with 13 points and game highs in rebounds (6), assists (8) and steals (4) while Dreon Barlett added eight points and career-high tying five rebounds.

ENJOYING THE HOME FLOOR

• Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Sacramento State is 25-8 at the Nest, including an 11-3 mark last year. The 11 victories were the most home wins in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and most since the 1988-89 squad also posted 11 wins.
• The Hornets were 8-2 against Big Sky foes at home last year, including a school-record seven-game home winning streak against Big Sky teams.
• This year, the Hornets are 4-1 at home and outscoring the opposition by an average of 16.8 points per contest (76.8-60.0).
• Dating back to last season, the Hornets have won 12 of the last 14 games inside the friendly confines. That includes an 87-70 victory against Northern Arizona.

EIGHT-MAN ROTATION

• Head coach Brian Katz has essentially used an eight-man rotation a good portion of the season, featuring guards Mikh McKinney, Dylan Garrity, Cody Demps and Dreon Barlett, forwards Nick Hornsby, Zach Mills and Alex Tiffin, and center Eric Stuteville.
• Each of those eight players are fully ingrained into Katz's rotation and make up the team's top eight scorers. Each is averaging at least 4.8 points per game.
• Katz has used the same starting lineup in nine of 11 games thus far, consisting of Garrity and McKinney at guard, Demps at swingman, Hornsby at forward, and Stuteville at center. That lineup has produced a 6-3 record this year.

A PROFICIENT SHOOTING TEAM FROM EVERYWHERE

• Sacramento State ranks among the top 75 teams in the nation in field goal percentage (.471, 55th), 3-point percentage (.375, 73rd) and free throw percentage (.739, 35th).
• The .471 field goal percentage is the third best mark in the Big Sky, and the Hornets have already shot at least .500 on six occasions and are 5-1 in those games.
• Three of the Hornets' top eight scorers are still shooting at least .500 from the field, comprised of Dreon Barlett (.586), Mikh McKinney (.540) and Alex Tiffin (.500).
• In part, because of the abundance of makes, Hornet opponents are grabbing just 31.4 rebounds per game, easily the lowest amount in the Big Sky.
• At home, the Hornets are shooting a robust .544 (142-261) from the field.

DEFENDING THE 3-POINT LINE

• The Hornets did a nice job of defending the 3-point line last season, limiting the opposition to just .344 from distance. Sacramento State is at it again, limiting opponents to just .309 this season, the third best mark among the 12 Big Sky teams. In addition, Thursday's opponent, Northern Arizona, is first in the league at .282.
• In seven of the team's 11 games, the opposition has shot .333 or worse from deep.

THIEVERY

• Due in large part to the swiping skills of guard Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State is first in the Big Sky and 60th in the nation with 8.0 steals per game.
• Sacramento State has tallied double figures in steals four times this season after recording at least 10 steals just twice in 30 games last year.
• Over the last four games, the Hornets are averaging 9.8 steals per contest.
• McKinney is currently third in the nation with 3.3 steals per contest. He already has 33 steals (7th in the nation), and the next closest Hornet (Dylan Garrity) has 13 steals.
• McKinney has at least one steal in all 10 games he's played.

IMPROVEMENT EVERY YEAR UNDER COACH KATZ

• Sacramento State has improved its conference record every year since head coach Brian Katz took over the program prior the 2008-09 season.
• After going 1-15 during Katz's first season in 2008-09, the Hornets went 3-13 in 2009-10, 4-12 in 2010-11, 5-11 in 2011-12, 8-12 in 2012-13, and 10-10 last year.

HORNETS PICKED HIGH IN PRESEASON RANKINGS

• Of the seven preseason polls released projecting the Big Sky, the Hornets were picked among the top four teams in all seven polls. That includes a first place prediction from Blue Ribbon, a second place prediction by ESPN and third place by The Sporting News.
• The Hornets were tabbed fourth in both the Big Sky coaches and media polls.

TWO 1,000 POINT SCORERS ON THE SAME SQUAD

• Early in the Abilene Christian game, senior guard Dylan Garrity became the 12th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, and is now 10th in Hornet history with 1,090 points. He is just 60 points shy of moving into ninth place.
• Exactly 10 days later, senior guard Mikh McKinney became the 13th player to score 1,000 points with his layup at the 4:58 mark of the second half against Portland. McKinney's 1,032 points still rank 13th, and he is 32 points shy of moving into 12th place.
• Together, they became just the sixth and seventh players to reach 1,000 points during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.), joining John Dickson, Loren Leath, Damond Edwards, Alex Bausley and Michael Boyd.

GARRITY FROM LONG RANGE

• Senior Dylan Garrity's 170 career 3-pointers made are the fifth best mark in school history, and his .426 3-point percentage ranks as the third best mark. His 170 made threes are also the third best mark among active players in the Big Sky.
• He has buried at least two 3-pointers in all but one game this season, and currently has averages of 13.1 points, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Sixth-five of his 100 field goal attempts have come from beyond the 3-point arc.
• Garrity can also handle the rock, as he is second in program history and ninth in Big Sky history with 468 assists. He needs 33 assists to claim the No. 1 spot in Hornet history.

McKINNEY PUTTING TOGETHER A MONSTER SEASON

• Senior Mikh McKinney has been incredible this season, averaging 17.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game while shooting .540 (67-124) from the field and .853 (29-34) from the free throw line.
• Perhaps the most impressive stat from his line is the field goal percentage (.540), a ridiculously high percentage for a guard.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top eight players in seven categories, including first in steals, second in minutes (35.1), third in scoring, assists, and assist/turnover ratio (+2.5), sixth in free throw percentage and eighth in field goal percentage.
• Has scored at least 12 points in eight straight games, and in nine of the 10 games he's appeared. Has scored in double figures in 54 career games.
• His average of 3.3 steals is the third best mark in the nation.
• Has started all 69 games in which he's played in a Sacramento State uniform.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Dylan Garrity (51 straight) and Cody Demps (41 straight) both have long streaks of consecutive starts. Garrity's streak dates back to the 2012-13 season. Mikh McKinney has started all 69 games he's appeared, but missed the season opener at Gonzaga.
• The Hornets' top five players in terms of plus/minus ratio, a stat used to determine how a team does when a particular player is on the floor, are McKinney (+46), Demps (+43), Garrity (+33), Zach Mills (+23) and Alex Tiffin (+23).
• McKinney has made each of his last 17 free throw attempts. Tiffin had made 13 straight freebies until a miss at Utah Valley. Garrity has made 19 of his last 20 attempts.
• Dreon Barlett is shooting a career .431 from the 3-point line, including .474 this year.
• Since posting back-to-back games with double figures in scoring, forward Zach Mills has scored seven points or less in eight consecutive games.
• Twenty of sophomore Nick Hornsby's 58 points this season came in one game - against Utah Valley on Dec. 1 when he shot 8-for-8 from the field.
• In two starts this season, forward Alex Tiffin is shooting 2-for-10 from the field. In the nine games he comes off the bench, Tiffin is shooting .588 (20-34) from the field.
• Sophomore center Eric Stuteville is 7-for-11 from the field over the last three games after shooting .379 (22-58) through the first eight games of the season.
• The Hornets are allowing 66.7 points per game, which doesn't seem like a great mark, but ranks third among the Big Sky's 12 teams.
• Sacramento State has 143 assists this season, translating to 13.0 per game, tied for the second best mark in the Big Sky.
• The Hornets grab just 8.6 offensive rebounds per game, the worst mark in the Big Sky. The team has four second chance points or less in four straight games.
• Sacramento State is getting nearly 20 points per game (19.8) from its bench.