SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento State got to open Big Sky play with six of its first eight conference games at home but now faces eight road games and just four home contests through the end of the regular season. The Hornets (13-4, 5-3 Big Sky) open a season-long four game road trip this week, facing Idaho State (6-11, 4-4 Big Sky) at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday and Weber State (4-13, 0-8 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Pacific Saturday.
Fantasia Hilliard broke the Sacramento State career assist record against Northern Colorado last Saturday and this season is seventh in the NCAA with 7.1 assists per game...The Hornets lead NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (12.9) and steals per game (14.7) and are second in points per game (90.5) and turnover margin (+9.82)...Sacramento State is 10-1 at home this season averaging 95.1 points per game but is just 3-3 on the road (0-2 in road Big Sky games) while averaging 82.2 points on the road...The Hornets scored a Big Sky record 110 points last Thursday against North Dakota, their fourth game above 100 points and their third broken Big Sky record this season...Sacramento State beat Idaho State in the Big Sky Quarterfinals last season but has never won in Pocatello and the Hornets have won five straight meetings with Weber State.
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Scouting Idaho State (6-11, 4-4 Big Sky)
Idaho State opened Big Sky play at 1-3 but has won three of its last four games, including a 74-63 win last Saturday at Montana State, which had won six straight games. The Bengals are the lowest scoring team in the Big Sky, averaging just 59.4 points per game, but rank second in the conference in scoring defense and field goal percent defense, allowing opponents just 65.2 points per game overall and 61.8 in Big Sky games. Senior Lindsey Reed leads Idaho State with 14.5 points and 3.6 assists per game. Sacramento State has never won in Pocatello and was swept by the Bengals in the regular season last year, but the Hornets scored a 73-60 win when the teams met in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Big Sky Tournament.
Scouting Weber State (4-13, 0-8 Big Sky)
After not winning a game for two seasons, Weber State ended a Big Sky record 48-game losing streak with a win in its season opener this year. The Wildcats totaled four wins in nonconference play, including a 79-64 win over Utah Valley, but are winless thus far in the Big Sky though they have had several close games. Weber State ranks second in the Big Sky, behind Sacramento State, with a +3.5 turnover margin and is third in the conference with 9.4 steals per game. Sophomore Desiree Ramos averages 13.1 points per game and senior Amanda Hughes scores 12.5 points with 6.2 rebounds per game. Sacramento State has won its last five meetings with the Wildcats but only won by six points in Ogden last season.
Passing All Passers
With four assists against Northern Colorado on Saturday Sacramento State junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard broke the all-time program record with 454 career assists. She tied the record with three assists in the first half and broke it at the 13:32 mark of the second half, assisting on a layup by Margaret Huntington that gave the Hornets a game-high 12-point lead. Heather Baker had owned the record since completing her Sacramento State career in 1993 and was in attendance Saturday as Hilliard surpassed her total. Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, bettering Baker's previous single-season school record of 160, and is on pace to surpass that number again this season. Her current assist total stands 13th in Big Sky history with still another season to play, and she ranks seventh in the NCAA this year with 7.1 assists per game.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 12.9 three-pointers made per game and 14.7 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 3.1 more 3-pointers and 1.9 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks second in the NCAA with 90.5 points per game and a 9.82 turnover margin and is tenth with 18.8 assists per game and a 1.31 assist to turnover ratio. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories, other than assist to turnover ratio, as well as offensive rebounds (17.5 ORPG)
Winning Their Game
The Hornets have seen stall tactics this year from opponents, but what Northern Colorado did on Saturday was on a whole new level. The Bears consistently passed up open layups to kill time, often with Hornet defenders actually defending the opposite side of the ball to dare the Bears to put up a shot. The score was low, but the Hornets were still able to take more shots, grab more offensive rebounds, and have huge advantages in free throws and points off turnovers. The Hornets were unable to dictate pace as they normally do but still came away with a fairly easy victory.
Sacramento State broke its third Big Sky single game record of the season against North Dakota last week 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 also broke school and Big Sky records. The Hornets have also surpassed single game conference records this season in 3-pointers made and attempted.
Return to the Road
Sacramento State played six of its first eight Big Sky games on its home floor but now has to prove it can win on the road with eight of the final 14 conference games away from Sacramento. The Hornets are 10-1 at home and average 95.1 points per game on their home floor, but have gone just 3-3 on the road scoring 82.2 points per game. The squad shoots 35.5% from 3-point range at home but just 28.7% on the road, making 14.7 threes per game at home and 9.7 in away games. In its first two Big Sky road games at Portland State and Eastern Washington, Sacramento State averaged just 72.5 points and shot 25% from 3-point range with just six 3-point makes per game while its opponents shot 51.9%.
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 and came within one of the NCAA record against UC Irvine, re-breaking the Big Sky record with 21 3-point makes and 55 3-point attempts. Sacramento State has had 11 different players make at least one three, including eight with 16 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have scored 660 of 1,539 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 220 made long balls have accounted for 42.9% of the team's points while just 37.8% of the total points have come on 2-point shots. The NCAA record for 3-pointers made per game in a season is 10.7 and Sacramento State is currently averaging 12.9.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 14.7 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 14 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but three games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +128 in steal margin (250-122) 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 +9.82 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 6.3 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 10.7 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +191 this year in points off turnovers (427-236). The team has scored 27.7% 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 10th in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (1.31).
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. 18 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 10-3 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).