SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After a record-breaking 110-104 victory over Big Sky-leading North Dakota on Thursday the Sacramento State women's basketball team (12-4, 4-3 Big Sky) hosts Northern Colorado (10-7, 4-4 Big Sky) at 2 p.m. Saturday in The Nest. Both the Hornets and Bears won on Thursday, with Sacramento State ending a three-game losing streak and Northern Colorado winning for the fourth time in the last five games and improving to 3-1 in road Big Sky games with an overtime win at Northern Arizona.
Fantasia Hilliard ranks 5th in the NCAA in assists per game (7.3) and needs just four assists Saturday to break the Sacramento State career assist record held by Heather Baker (453)... The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (13.4) and steals per game (15.3) and are second in points per game (91.6) and turnover margin (+9.63)...Sacramento State is 9-1 at home this season averaging 97.2 points per game, 15.7 three-pointers per game, and 21.8 assists per game with a +11.1 turnover margin...The Hornets scored a Big Sky record 110 points on Thursday against North Dakota, their fourth game this season above 100 points, while forcing 29 turnovers and hitting 16 threes...Northern Colorado, which is 3-1 in road Big Sky games after a win Thursday at Northern Arizona, is the second lowest scoring team in the league with 63.8 points per game.
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.
Scouting Northern Colorado (10-7, 4-4 Big Sky)
Northern Colorado took a huge blow when senior D'shara Strange, arguably the top player in the Big Sky, was lost for the season due to a torn acl during preseason workouts. The Bears lost their first three Big Sky games but have won four of the last five, including three road conference wins after an 86-82 overtime victory at Northern Arizona on Thursday. Northern Colorado is one of the better defensive teams in the league, ranking second in scoring defense (65.2 ppg) and opponent field goal percentage (.376), but is the second lowest scoring team in the league averaging just 62.4 points per game. Junior Stephanie Lee leads the team and ranks second in the league with 20.7 points per game and 1.9 blocks per game. The Hornets haven't defeated UNC since the 2009-10 season, having lost six straight matchups.
Following a nine game winning streak and an 11-1 start to the season Sacramento State dropped three straight contests before Thursday's win. The team had averaged just 74.7 points per game during the losing streak, nearly 20 points less than the 94.2 points per game it averaged prior, before scoring a Big Sky-record 110 points against North Dakota. The Hornets shot 38.1% from 3-point range and hit 16 threes on Thursday after shooting just 28.8% and making 7.7 threes per game during the stretch. North Dakota shot a blistering 63.2%, but did not make a single 3-pointer and shot 10 less free throws than the Hornets while Sacramento State forced 29 turnovers and had a 33-16 advantage in point off turnovers. The Hornets also tallied 14 offensive rebounds and attempted 11 more shots in the game than North Dakota.
Approaching a Milestone
Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard, who last week was named to the Lieberman Award Watch List among the top point guards in the nation, is just four assists shy of breaking the program's career-assist record. With 11 assists on Thursday Hilliard brought her career total to 450 assists, just three shy of the career record of 453 assists set by Heather Baker (1989-93). Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, easily bettering Baker's previous single-season school record of 160 set during the 1991-92 season, and she is on pace to surpass that number again this season. She currently ranks fifth in the NCAA with 7.3 assists per game this season and has recorded five games with double-digit assists. Hilliard has also picked up her scoring this season and ranks second on the team with 13.3 points per game and a team-leading four double-doubles.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 13.4 three-pointers made per game and 15.3 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 3.5 more 3-pointers and 2.4 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks second in the NCAA with 91.6 points per game and a 9.63 turnover margin and is seventh with 19.3 assists per game. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as offensive rebounds (17.8 ORPG)
Sacramento State broke its third Big Sky single game record of the season on Thursday with 110 points, surpassing the 109 points Idaho scored against Portland State in 1986 as the highest scoring game in conference history. The 214 combined points between Sacramento State and North Dakota on Thursday also broke school and Big Sky records. The Hornets have also surpassed single game conference records this season in 3-pointers made and attempted.
Happy to be Home
Prior to last week Sacramento State had played just one road game between Nov. 27 and Jan. 16, and the team was happy to return to the confines of The Nest this week. The Hornets are 9-1 at home and average 97.2 points per game on their home floor, compared to 3-3 on the road scoring 82.2 points per game. The squad shoots 35.8% from 3-point range at home but just 28.7% on the road, making 15.7 threes per game at home and 9.7 in away games. The Hornets have topped 90 points in nine of 10 home games but have done so just once on the road.
Historic three-point shooting has been the Hornets calling card, as the team has led the nation in 3-pointers made per game throughout the 2013-14 season. The squad has thrice broken 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 has had 11 different players make at least one three, including eight with 15 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have made at least six 3-pointers in every game and have scored 645 of 1,465 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 215 made long balls have accounted for 44.1% of the team's points while just 37.5% of the total points have come on 2-point shots.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 15.3 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 13 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but two games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +124 in steal margin (245-121) and as a result have also had fewer turnovers than their opponent in all but one game this year.
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 this season that number has skyrocketed. The Hornets rank second in the NCAA at +9.63 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 5.8 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 11.0 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +175 this year in points off turnovers (403-228). The team has scored 27.5% of its total points this season off of opponent giveaways with a season-best 48-17 edge against NAU and a 37-7 advantage at UC Davis. Sacramento State also ranks second in the Big Sky and is 13th in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (1.29).
Rank and File
Sacramento State has ranked as high as No. 13 this season in the CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25 poll and is No. 19 currently. The Big Sky is one of 23 conferences classified as Mid-Major along with many western conferences including the West Coast Conference (WCC), the Big West Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Hornets are 9-3 this season against other Mid-Major schools and also have two wins against Mountain West schools (High-Major) and one against the Pac-12 (Major).
Freshman Hallie Gennett has been among the best three-point shooters in the nation in just her rookie season. She ranks eighth in the NCAA and leads the Big Sky with 3.19 three-point makes per game, including seven games making five of more 3-point shots. The bulk of Gennett's threes have come in just those seven games, as she hit 41 threes in those games and just 10 threes in the Hornets' nine other games. Of her 65 made field goals on the season, 51 have been 3-pointers, while 139 of her 166 field goal attempts (83.7%) have come from beyond the arc, where she is shooting 36.7% on the season.
Sacramento State has used 12 different starting lineups in 16 games this season. The starters for each game are picked from a statistical formula using the individual totals from the previous game, and with 11 different players seeing starts this season the combinations are, barring multiple injuries, almost endless. No Hornet has started every game this year as Takara Burse leads with 14 starts.
Clutch In Crunch Time
Sacramento State is 7-1 this season in games decided by six points with its only close loss last Thursday at Portland State. The Hornets have outscored their opposition 47-37 in the last two minutes of those eight games and in the final minute had a 26-15 scoring edge.