SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The 6-1 Sacramento State women's basketball team hosts its final non-conference home game and its last contest of the semester in a matchup with UC Irvine (5-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday in The Nest. The game opens a day-night doubleheader with the Sacramento State men's basketball team, which will host William Jessup at 7 p.m.
The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (13.9) and steals per game (16.1), are second in turnover margin (10.7), and are fourth in points per game (92.3)...Sacramento State's 6-1 record is the best start to a season in the Div. I era of the program and is the best start since the 1976-77 team opened the year at 8-1....The Hornets have scored 45.0% of their total points this season on 3-pointers (just 39.9% on 2-point shots) and have outscored their opposition 166-80 in points off turnovers...After scoring a career-high 28 points vs. San Jose State senior Alle Moreno needs just four points to become the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 career points...UC Irvine, which leads the Big West in three-point percentage (.322), has only played one home game all season and will be concluding a nine-game road trip on Saturday.
All Sacramento State home games and all Big Sky games have a free live video stream available at WatchBigSky.com. Saturday's game will also stream live on HornetSports.com/Radio with Nate Goodyear providing the play-by-play call. Live stats are available above and for more content and game updates like Sacramento State Athletics on facebook and follow @HornetSports and #BigSkyWBB on twitter.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State enters play this week leading all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 13.9 three-pointers made per game and 16.1 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging two 3-pointers and two steals more than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks second in the country with a 10.71 turnover margin, fourth with 92.3 points per game, seventh with 20.1 assists per game, and 11th with a 1.37 assist to turnover ratio. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as opponent 3-point percentage (.255) and rebounding (45.9 RPG).
The Hornets' 6-1 record is the best start to a season in the Div. I era of the program (since 1991) and is the best start since the 1976-77 team opened its season with an 8-1 record. The team has also already won more non-conference games than any year in the Div. I era and the most since the 1982-83 squad posted an 8-5 mark in non-conference play.
Clutch In Crunch Time
Sacramento State has won its last three games by a total of nine points and is 4-0 this season in games decided by four points or less. In the last two minutes of those four games the Hornets outscored their opposition 24-15 and in the final minute had a 12-5 scoring edge.
Sacramento State has used a different starting lineup in every game this season and very well could go the whole year without repeating a starting-five. The starters for each game are picked based on statistics from the previous game, and with 10 different players seeing starts this season the combinations are, barring injury, almost endless. No Hornet has started every game this year as senior Alle Moreno and Junior Takara Burse lead the way with six starts apiece.
Already Sacramento State's all-time leading 3-point shooter, senior guard Alle Moreno is on the verge of cracking the 1,000-point plateau as she is just four points shy of hitting four figures. Her career-high 28 points against San José State brought her career total to 996 as she looks to become just the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. Most of Moreno's scoring has come in just two seasons and the first seven gives of this year, as she totaled just 74 points in limited minutes as a freshman. Moreno would be the first Hornet to reach the plateau since Kylie Kuhns and Emily Christensen each cracked 1,000 during the 2011-12 season. She arrives at 1,000 points in style following a week in which she averaged 20.5 points and 5.0 assists per game and was named College Sports Madness Mid-Major Player of the Week as well as Big Sky Player of the Week.
Historic three-point shooting has been a catalyst to the Hornets early success, as the team has led the nation in 3-pointers made per game throughout the 2013-14 season. The squad twice broke the single-game program record in 3-point makes, hitting 17 threes against Cal State Northridge and 18 threes against San Diego State. The Hornets also broke the Big Sky record with 18 3-point makes and 49 3-point attempts against San Diego State, a number the team matched twice since. Sacramento State is shooting 32.2% from three-point range and has had 10 different players make at least one three, including six with eight or more three-point makes already this season. The Hornets have scored 291 of 646 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 97 made long balls have accounted for 45.0% of the team's points while just 39.9% of the points have come on 2-pointers.
While lighting up the scoreboard from beyond the arc on the offensive end, the Hornets have also shut down opponent 3-point tries on the defensive end. The Hornets have posted a Big Sky-best .255 opponent three-point percentage and have allowed just 28 opponent three's through six games. Five of Sacramento State's seven opponents have shot .300 or lower from long range, with Saint Mary's the only team to shoot well from long range in double-digit attempts (7-of-11). The Hornets have made 69 more three-pointers than their opposition (97-28) and have outscored opponents 291-84 overall from beyond the arc.
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 so far this season that number has skyrocketed. Through five games the Hornets are +10.7 in turnover margin to rank second in the nation. The margin of more than 10 turnovers per game has enabled the Hornets to attempt 16.3 more shots per game than their opponents, as the squad is +86 this year in points off turnovers (166-80). The team has scored 25.7% of its total points off of opponent giveaways this season with a season-best 37-10 edge in points off turnovers vs. Saint Mary's. Sacramento State also leads the Big Sky in assist to turnover ratio (1.4).
Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard is tied for 10th in the NCAA with 7.0 assists per game this season. She had 13 assists last week, including a 10-assist game against Saint Mary's, and she moved into second place on Sacramento State's career assist leaderboard with 383 career helpers. Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, easily bettering Heather Baker's previous single-season school record of 160 set during the 1991-92 season. Her 5.9 assists per game led the Big Sky and ranked 21st in the NCAA last season after she averaged 4.8 assists as a freshman. Hilliard should break the career assist record, which Baker set with 453 assists, during the 2013-14 season as she is just 70 assists shy of the record.
Scouting UC Irvine (5-4)
UC Irvine opened its season with a 68-64 home in over South Dakota and has been on the road ever since, as Saturday's contest will conclude a nine-game road trip. The Anteaters don't play a home game between Nov. 10 and Dec. 18 but have managed a 4-4 mark so far away from home (3-3 away, 1-1 neutral). UC Irvine faced Montana, which is tied with the Hornets for the top Big Sky record, and took a 71-48 loss in Missoula last Saturday. The squad is averaging just 67.9 points per game but has some strong outside shooters, including a pair that have hit double-digit threes this year while shooting better than .400 from long range, and has a +1.3 turnover margin. Senior Camille Buckley leads the team with 14.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game while ranking second in assists. The Hornets will be hosting the Anteaters for the first time since 2008.