SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After a two week break the Sacramento State women's basketball team (7-1) will close the non-conference portion of its schedule with its annual Causeway game at 2 p.m. Saturday at UC Davis (4-7). The contest will be worth 10 points in the season-long ScholarShare Causeway Cup, which UC Davis currently leads 37.5-12.5.
The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (14.8) and steals per game (16.1) and are fourth in points per game (93.1) and assists per game (21.1)...Sacramento State's 7-1 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 47.5% of their total points this season on 3-pointers (just 37.9% on 2-point shots) and have outscored their opposition 180-104 in points off turnovers...With 22 points vs. UC Irvine senior Alle Moreno become the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 career points and is now 10th in Big Sky history in career 3-pointers...UC Davis has won its last two games and is 2-1 at home this season while leading the Big West and ranking 18th in the NCAA with 8.4 three-pointers made per game.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State enters play this weekend leading all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 14.8 three-pointers made per game and 16.1 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 2.8 3-pointers and 2.1 steals more than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks fourth in scoring (92.3 points per game) and assists (21.1), is fifth with 10.00 turnover margin, and sixth with a 1.42 assist to turnover ratio. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as opponent 3-point percentage (.277) and offensive rebounds (19.1 ORPG).
The Hornets' 7-1 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 four games by a total of 14 points and is 5-0 this season in games decided by five points or less. In the last two minutes of those five games the Hornets outscored their opposition 33-19 and in the final minute had a 17-7 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 seven starts apiece.
Another National Record
Sacramento State broke its second NCAA single-game record of the season in its last game against UC Irvine, attempting a Div. I-record 55 three-pointers in the contest. That number topped the previous Div. I record of 52 three-point attempts set by Alabama in 1995 and matched by Cal Poly against Ole Miss in 1999. The Hornets also re-broke the Big Sky record by knocking down 21 three's against the Anteaters, surpassing their own record set this year at 18, and finished just one 3-point make behind the all-time NCAA record of 22 three's set by Florida Gulf Coast last season.
Scouting UC Davis (4-7)
UC Davis has won its last two games after starting the year 2-7, earning a road win at Santa Clara and a home overtime victory over Houston Baptist. The Aggies lost by 17 at Saint Mary's, a team Sacramento State defeated, but pounded San Jose State 95-61, a squad the Hornets topped by just four points. UC Davis leads the Big West and ranks 18th in the NCAA with 8.4 three-point makes per game (Sacramento State leads with 14.8 three's per game). Junior Sydnee Fipps leads UC Davis with 17.2 points per game this season while sophomore Alyson Doherty averages 11.0 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game with 10 blocks. UC Davis is 8-3 in the Div. I era against Sacramento State but the Hornets earned a 66-65 overtime win last season in The Nest.
Already Sacramento State's all-time leading 3-point shooter, senior guard Alle Moreno cracked the 1,000-point plateau when she scored her fourth of 22 points against UC Irvine. Her career-high 28 points against San José State in the prior game helped her 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 eight games of this year, as she totaled just 74 points in limited minutes as a freshman. Moreno is the first Hornet to reach the plateau since Kylie Kuhns and Emily Christensen each cracked 1,000 during the 2011-12 season. She arrived at 1,000 points 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 has thrice broke the single-game program record in 3-point makes, hitting 17 threes against Cal State Northridge,18 against San Diego State, and 21 against UC Irvine. The Hornets also re-broke the Big Sky record with 21 3-point makes and 55 3-point attempts against UC Irvine. Sacramento State is shooting 33.3% from three-point range and has had 10 different players make at least one three, including five with 10 or more three-point makes already this season. The Hornets have scored 354 of 745 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 118 made long balls have accounted for 47.5% of the team's points while just 37.9% 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 .277 opponent three-point percentage and have allowed just 36 opponent three's through eight games. Four of Sacramento State's eight 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 82 more three-pointers than their opposition (118-36) and have outscored opponents 354-108 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 eight games the Hornets are +10.0 in turnover margin to rank fifth in the nation. That has enabled the Hornets to attempt 15.1 more shots per game than their opponents, as the squad is +76 this year in points off turnovers (180-104). The team has scored 24.1% 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 and is sixth in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (1.42).
Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard ranks sixth in the NCAA with 7.6 assists per game this season. She had a career-high 12 assists against UC Irvine and she sits in second place on Sacramento State's career assist leaderboard with 395 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 58 assists shy of the record.
'Burse'ting onto the Scene
Junior guard Takara "TK" Burse has arguably been Sacramento State's most consistent performer this season on both ends of the floor. She has started seven of eight games and has scored four or more points and grabbed four or more rebounds in every game this season. Burse has established new career highs with 16 points and 11 rebounds and had a team season-best six steals against San Diego State. On the season she is tied for the team lead with 22 steals and is second with 6.8 rebounds per game while averaging 10.9 points per contest. After playing just 5.8 minutes per game through her first two seasons, Burse is second on the team with 25.4 minutes per game this year.
NCAA 3-Point Break
Sacramento State and Oregon combined to break the NCAA record in single-game 3-point attempts as the squads combined to shoot 86 3-pointers on Nov. 17. That shattered the previous record of 75 combined 3-point attempts set in a 1999 game between Ole Miss and Bowling Green. That game also produced the record for combined 3-pointers made with 31 but the Hornets and Ducks combined for just 18 3-point makes (11 for SAC, 7 for ORE). Neither team shot the ball well from long range (SAC 22.4%, ORE 18.9%) but that did not dissuade them from continuing to fire from deep.
Moreno 3-Point Break
Senior guard Alle Moreno became Sacramento State's all-time leading 3-point shooter on Nov. 10 when she hit her fourth of six 3-point makes against San Diego State. Moreno surpassed the previous career 3-point record of 176 set by former Hornet Kim Sheehy, who concluded her collegiate career in 2007, while she had already established a new record for career 3-point attempts during her junior year. Moreno has had the two most prolific 3-point single season totals in program history, knocking down 78 threes in 2011-12 and 77 threes last season. With 196 career 3-pointers to date Moreno now ranks 10th in Big Sky history.
Sacramento State's points scored this season is split nearly even between starters and bench players. Through eight games the starters have scored 423 points and the bench has scored 322, with the starters accounting for just 56.8% of the points. Ten players have made at least one start, as each game's starters are selected based on statistics from the previous game. The difference between the abilities of the players in the rotation is minimal, with nine or 10 players splitting time evenly in each game. Different players have stepped up in each game as the distinction between starters and reserves does not fit the traditional style of substitutions and minute distribution.