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MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE SINCE 1977 ON THURSDAY

MEN'S HOOPS SEEKS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE SINCE 1977 ON THURSDAY

Sacramento State Game Notes (28 pages) - pdf
Big Sky Conference standings

GAME PREVIEW

• With just two games remaining in the regular season, Sacramento State (19-8, 13-3) will look to win its first Big Sky Conference championship on Thursday at Southern Utah (9-18, 6-10). Tip-off at Centrum Arena is set for 6:05 p.m. PST.
• Currently in first place in the 12-team Big Sky, the Hornets need to win just one of their remaining two games (Saturday at Northern Arizona) to secure their first conference championship since 1977 when the team was a member of the Far Western Conference.
• Should the Hornets win Thursday or Saturday, Sacramento State would host the Big Sky Tournament on March 12-14 on campus at the WELL, which is a 151,000 square foot recreation and wellness center that opened in 2010 and has 22,000 members.
• Sacramento State (13-3) sits all alone in first place, followed by Montana (13-4) and Eastern Washington (12-4), and the Hornets own the tiebreakers over both teams.
• Sacramento State has won three straight games, including Saturday's 73-60 win at Portland State. The Hornets are 6-7 on the road, and 4-3 in Big Sky road games.
• Currently ranked 14th in the nation in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major poll, the Hornets' 19 victories are the third most in program history.
• At 19-8, Sacramento State has its second best record after 27 games in program history (1948-pres.), trailing only the 1987-88 squad's 22-5 record.
• The 13 Big Sky wins are the most ever, and no Hornet squad in program history (regardless of conference) had ever won 13 league games.
• What makes the Hornets' record so remarkable is, entering the year, the Hornets had just three winning seasons in the last 38 years, and zero since joining Div. I in 1991.
• Coming off a season in which Southern Utah went 2-27 and 1-19 in league, the Thunderbirds have seven more overall wins and five more Big Sky wins that all of last year.
• Southern Utah, currently ninth in the Big Sky, is fighting for the eighth and final spot into the Big Sky Tournament. The T-Birds (6-10) are a game behind Weber State (7-9), and own the tiebreaker over the Wildcats should the teams finish tied in the standings.
• The Hornets defeated the Thunderbirds earlier this year in Sacramento, 90-75, and have won the last three meetings in the series.
• The Hornets are 10-14 all-time vs. the T-Birds, and 3-8 when playing in Cedar City.

SHOULD THE HORNETS WIN ON THURSDAY....

• The Hornets would win their first conference title since 1977, and just the sixth conference championship in school history (1959, 1962, 1970, 1972, 1977).
• Sacramento State would win 20 games for just the third time in school history, joining the 1987-88 squad (22-8), and the 1961-62 team (21-10).
• The Hornets would clinch at least a spot in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) by virtue of winning the Big Sky's regular season title. The last postseason appearance for the Hornets came at the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament.
• The Hornets' potential 20-8 record would be the second best in school history (the 1987-88 squad owns the best mark after 28 games at 22-6).
• The Hornets would win their seventh road game, tied for most in the Div. I era.

A LOOK AT THE LAST MEETING VS. SOUTHERN UTAH

• Sacramento State opened the game on a 10-2 run and never looked back, leading by at least six points the rest of the game in a 90-75 win vs. Southern Utah on Jan. 3.
• The Hornets raced to a 52-37 halftime lead, and finished the game .613 (38-62) from the field, .500 (4-8) from the 3-point line and .833 (10-12) from the free throw line. In addition, the Hornets had 25 assists and just three turnovers.
• Five Hornets scored in double figures, led by Mikh McKinney's game-high 21 points.

TV/RADIO/VIDEO STREAM/LIVE STATS

• Every regular season game the rest of the way will be streamed live and free on www.WatchBigSky.com. Fans will need to create an account before watching for the first time.
• 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 PROFICIENT SHOOTING TEAM FROM EVERYWHERE

• Sacramento State is one of just six teams in the nation to rank among the top 15 squads in both field goal percentage (13th, .484) and 3-point percentage (6th, .405).
• In addition, the team is 33rd in the nation in free throw percentage (.737).
• The Hornets have shot at least .500 from the field on 12 occasions this year, and are 11-1 in those games. In addition, the Hornets have shot better than .590 four times.
• The program record for single-season field goal percentage is .491 (1985-86), and 3-point field goal percentage is .418 (1987-88).

SEEKING FIFTH NCAA TOURNEY APPEARANCE, FIRST IN DIV. I

• The Hornets will be seeking their first NCAA Div. I Tournament appearance.
• The program did qualify for the NCAA Div. II Tournament on four occasions (1959, 1962, 1970, 1988). In fact, the Hornets finished as the national runner-up in 1962.
• Since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991, the closest the Hornets have come to the NCAA Tournament was Big Sky Tourney semifinal appearances in 2003 and 2006.

GETTING BETTER ON THE ROAD

• While a 6-7 record on the road is hardly anything to brag about, its a pretty big deal at Sacramento State, where road wins have been few and far between in the Div. I era.
• Amazingly, six road wins are already tied for the second best mark since the Hornets joined the Div. I ranks in 1991-92 (the 2005-06 squad won seven; 2002-03 won six).
• The Hornets entered the season with....brace yourself....a 41-282 road record (.127 winning percentage) since joining the Div. I ranks.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES

• The Hornets are 5-1 in games decided by three points or less, 7-2 in games decided by five points or less, and 11-2 in games decided by single digits.
• Of the Hornets' 13 conference wins, nine have come by eight points or less.

LEAN YEARS NOW IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

• To put the Hornets' 19-8 and 13-3 records into context, one has to understand how far the program has come this season after some dubious years in the Div. I era.
• Since joining the Div. I ranks prior to the 1991-92 season, the Hornets had never finished with an overall record above .500.
• Prior to this season, Sacramento State's overall record in the Div. I era was 189-475 (.269 winning percentage), and 86-211 (.266) in Big Sky Conference play.
• At one point, the Hornets lost 34 straight games, from 1997 until 1999.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL

• The Hornets' 307 turnovers are the 28th best mark in the nation, and the team's average of 9.9 turnovers per game in conference play is the best mark in the Big Sky.
• Sacramento State's +1.29 assist-to-turnover ratio is the 35th best mark in the nation.

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.
• Katz has used the same starting lineup in 25 of 27 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 19-6 record this year.

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.

GETTING IT DONE IN THE CLASSROOM

• During the fall semester, the Hornets posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.150, the best mark for men's basketball in school history.

TWO 1,000 POINT SCORERS ON THE SAME SQUAD

• Earlier this season, senior guards Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney became the 12th and 13th players, respectively, in school history to score 1,000 career points.
• The two are currently within 34 points of each other as McKinney is fifth in school history with 1,348 points and Garrity is sixth with 1314 points.
• Together, they became just the sixth and seventh players to reach 1,000 points during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.), joining Dickson, Loren Leath, Damond Edwards, Alex Bausley and Michael Boyd.

GARRITY THE NEW ASSISTS KING AT SACRAMENTO STATE

• With 520 career assists, senior guard Dylan Garrity is Sacramento State's all-time leader, surpassing the previous mark of 501, set by DaShawn Freeman (2002-06).
• In addition, Garrity is sixth in Big Sky history in that category.
• Garrity, who has become more of a scorer than a distributor during his career, had 193 assists as a freshman, 143 as a sophomore, 107 as a junior, and 77 this season.
• Garrity has become a long range marksman, currently shooting better than 40 percent from distance for the third straight season.
• Among players averaging at least 2.5 made 3-pointers per game, Garrity's current season percentage of .422 ranks as the 25th best percentage in the nation.
• His career 3-point percentage of .422 (209-495) is the 3rd best mark in school history.
• He has raised his scoring average every year of his career, from 8.1 ppg as a freshman, to 11.6 ppg, 13.2 ppg, and currently 13.6 ppg this year.

McKINNEY THE FAVORITE FOR BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE YEAR

• Senior guard Mikh McKinney has been incredible this season, averaging 19.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game while shooting .519 (178-343) from the field, .415 (51-123) from the 3-point line and .782 (86-110) from the free throw line. He is also a team-best +129 in plus/minus ratio.
• He became the first player in school history to be named to the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List. He is one of two players from the Big Sky (Tyler Harvey).
• He has won Big Sky Player of the Week honors four times this season.
• Amazingly, he ranks among the nation's top 60 players in seven different categories, including sixth in steals per game, 19th in minutes per game (36.9), 30th in points per game, 42nd in assists per game, and 45th in total field goals made.
• Perhaps the most impressive stat from his line is the field goal percentage (.519), which is the fifth best mark in the nation among guards.
• He ranks among the Big Sky's top three players in five categories; first in steals and minutes, second in scoring and assists, and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3).
• Has scored at least 11 points in 24 straight games, and has gone over the 20-point mark on 12 occasions. McKinney has scored in double figures in 70 career games.
• Has started all 85 games in which he's played in a Sacramento State uniform.

DEMPS PLAYING AT A HIGH LEVEL IN CONFERENCE PLAY

• Though guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity get a lot of pub, opponents can't overlook the third part of the Hornets' three-guard attack in junior Cody Demps.
• After averaging 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on .391 shooting in non-conference play, Demps has ramped those numbers up to 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists on .527 shooting (59-112) in Big Sky play.
• In league play, he ranks among the Big Sky's top 13 players in seven categories, including 4th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.5), 8th in assists, 9th in minutes, 11th in field goal percentage, 12th in rebounding and 13th free throw percentage (.790).
• The Hornets' best defender, and one of the best defensive players in the Big Sky.

HORNET NOTABLES

• Zach Mills' 3-point percentage of .531 (17-32) in Big Sky play is the best mark in the league. His career 3-point percentage of .416 is the 5th best mark in school history.
• Alex Tiffin's free throw percentage of .774 (24-31) is not only a career high, but is light years better than last season's percentage of .422 (19-45).
• Nick Hornsby has at least three steals in six of the last seven games. He is averaging 3.7 steals during that stretch and is now fourth in the league averaging 1.7 steals in Big Sky play.