SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With a trip to the Big Sky Tournament solidified, Sacramento State (18-9, 10-8 Big Sky) looks to improve its seeding for the conference championship as it closes the regular season at Montana (18-9, 12-6 Big Sky) at 6 p.m. Pacific time Thursday and Montana State (13-14, 8-10 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Pacific Saturday.
Sacramento State leads NCAA Div. I in three-point makes per game (12.4) and steals per game (13.4), is third in turnover margin (+8.85) and fifth in points per game (84.3)....The Hornets clinched their third consecutive berth in the Big Sky Tournament with their win over Idaho State last Saturday and could finish as high as third place in the conference...With 336 made 3-pointers this season the Hornets have already eclipsed their own program and Big Sky record (264) and are just six shy of the NCAA record (342)...Sacramento State has already broken the 3-point attempt NCAA season record (1,055 so far) and its season average of 12.4 three's per game is 1.7 more than the NCAA record...The Hornets started Big Sky play against the Montana schools and scored 198 total points in two wins. Montana State is fighting for a Big Sky berth while Montana has clinched.
Scouting Montana (18-9, 12-6 Big Sky)
Montana enters the weekend in third place in the Big Sky after a 72-65 win at Montana State on Monday. The team has won three of its last five games and is 12-1 at home this season, including an 8-0 mark in home Big Sky games. The Hornets and the Griz met on the first week of conference play on Jan. 4, with the Hornets recording a 91-81 win as four players scored in double figures and the team forced 20 Montana turnovers. The Griz lead the Big Sky in points allowed (61.7 per game) and opponent field goal percentage (.371) and is second in blocks, 3-pointers made per game, and assist to turnover ratio. Carly Selvig leads the Big Sky and ranks 16th in the nation with 2.8 blocks per game and point guard Torry Hill is second in the league with 5.0 assists per game. Sacramento State has never won a game at Montana and is just 3-33 all-time against the Griz.
Scouting Montana State (13-14, 8-10 Big Sky)
Montana State is one of four teams in the mix for the final-two qualifying spots for the Big Sky Tournament. The team controls its own destiny and would qualify for the tournament with a win Thursday over Northern Arizona and a victory over the Hornets on Saturday. After dropping their first Big Sky game 107-95 against the Hornets Jan. 2 the Bobcats won six straight conference games, but since then the team is just 2-9 and has lost four of its last five games. Three players scored more than 20 points for Sacramento State in its win over MSU while the team had 24 offensive rebounds and forced 24 Bobcat turnovers with 16 steals. Jasmine Hommes leads three Bobcats averaging double-digit scoring with 13.4 points per game while shooting 48.7% from the field. Sacramento State has won its last four meetings with the Bobcats.
The Nation's Best
Sacramento State leads all of NCAA Div. I (343 Teams) with 12.4 three-pointers made per game and 13.4 steals per game. The Hornets are averaging 2.4 more 3-pointers and 1.4 more steals than any other team in the nation. The squad also ranks third in the NCAA with a +8.85 turnover margin, is fifth with 84.3 points per game, and is 18th with 16.9 assists per game. Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in all of those categories as well as offensive rebounds (16.8 ORPG) and assist-turnover ratio (1.25).
Big Sky Breakdown
Sacramento State clinched a berth in the Big Sky Tournament with its 56-53 win over Idaho State last Saturday, the program's third consecutive berth in the conference tournament. The Hornets could still finish as high as third place in the final regular season standings but are fifth entering the week. North Dakota, Southern Utah, Montana, and Eastern Washington have also clinched while Idaho State, Montana State, Northern Colorado, and Northern Arizona are battling for the last two qualifying spots. North Dakota has clinched a share of the regular season crown and will likely host the Big Sky Tournament, though Southern Utah still has a chance to tie for the regular season title and could earn hosting rights as the teams face each other on Thursday in Cedar City.
Historic three-point shooting has been the Hornets calling card, as the team is now on the precipice of breaking the single-season NCAA 3-point record. 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. With 336 total 3-pointers made the team has already broken the single-season program and Big Sky records for made threes in a season and is just six makes shy of the NCAA record of 342, set by Florida Gulf Coast in 2012.
Sacramento State has had eight players make double-digit threes, including seven with 20 or more three-point makes this season. The Hornets have scored 1,008 of 2,277 total points this season on 3-pointers, as 336 made long balls have accounted for 44.3% of the team's points while just 37.0% 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 12.4, while the Hornets have already broken the single-season NCAA 3-point attempt record with 1,055, besting the previous record of 981 set by Morehead State in 2010.
Making an Adjustment
The Hornets played a different style and used a different substitution pattern last week than they had used in any game this season. Rather than using a full court press, doubling the ball on defense, and subbing three to five players every 45 seconds, the squad played more traditional half court defense and subbed just single players less frequently. The team used just eight players in each game, the fewest used this season, and had just six players play double-digit minutes on Thursday. Injuries and a drop in scoring spurred the change as the team had two of its lowest opponent shooting percentages of the season and scored well below its season average on the offensive end but came away with two wins.
Sacramento State has had trouble replicating its home success in road venues, having gone 5-7 overall and just 2-6 in the Big Sky in road games this season. The team averages 10.5 fewer points per game on the road than at home with sizeable home/road differences as well in field goal percentage (.393/.361), 3-point percentage (.338/.292), 3-pointers made per game (13.6/11.0), steals per game (14.9/11.5), and scoring margin (+6.4/-5.6). The team has been outscored by 8.2 points per game in eight Big Sky road games while its opponents have shot 56.4% from the field.
Hornet seniors Sadie Clements, Alle Moreno, and Se'Nyce Parrish were honored prior to their final home game last Saturday, and while Parrish did not play and has missed most of the season due to injury, Clements and Moreno led Sacramento State to the win. Clements scored the first seven points and the Hornets' first 10 points of the game, totaling 16 points in the first half and tying her career high with 19 points in the game. She hit the go-ahead 3-point shot with 36 seconds left in the game off an assist by Moreno, who totaled 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in the contest and had a a key 3-point play to lead the 13-0 Hornet run to win the game.
Hornet Freshmen Hallie Gennett and Gigi Hascheff have been major contributors to the Hornets throughout the 2013-14 season. Gennett ranks 23rd in the NCAA and leads the Big Sky with 2.89 three-point makes per game, including seven games making five or more 3-point shots. She made a Big Sky season-high eight 3-point shots in her first collegiate game vs. Cal State Northridge. Of her 108 made field goals on the season, 78 have been 3-pointers, while 239 of her 293 field goal attempts (81.6%) have come from beyond the arc.
Hascheff is averaging 11.1 points per game this season and is shooting 74% from the free throw line. She has been especially superb in Big Sky play, leading the team with 12.3 points per game and shooting 38% from the field and 77% from the line. Hascheff is also third on the team with 2.6 assists per game and averages 1.2 steals per game.
Passing All Passers
With four assists against Northern Colorado on Jan. 25 Sacramento State junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard broke the all-time program record with her 454th career assist. She tied the record with three assists in the first half and broke it at the 13:32 mark of the second half. Heather Baker had owned the record since completing her Sacramento State career in 1993 and was in attendance as Hilliard surpassed her total. Hilliard totaled 184 assists last season, bettering Baker's previous single-season school record of 160, and is 12 shy of re-breaking the record again this season. Her current career assist total of 506 stands 10th in Big Sky history with still another season to play, and she ranks 14th in the NCAA this year with 6.4 assists per game.
Clutch In Crunch Time
Sacramento State is 9-2 this season in games decided by six points or less. The Hornets have outscored their opposition 38-28 in the final minute of those 11 games.
Sacramento State leads the NCAA with 13.4 steals per game and has had more steals than its opponent in 21 games this season. The team has also recorded double-digit steals in all but six games this year and broke the single-game program record with 26 steals against San Diego State. For the season the Hornets are +191 in steal margin (361-170) 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 third in the NCAA at +8.85 in turnover margin, leading the Big Sky by 6.1 per game. The margin has enabled the Hornets to attempt 11.3 more shots per game than their opponents, and the squad is +264 this year in points off turnovers (608-344). The team has scored 26.7% of its total points this season off of opponent giveaways with a season-best 48-17 edge against NAU.