SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After its first win of the young season at home on Sunday, Sacramento State (1-1) returns to action in The Nest hosting Nevada (1-1) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State picked up its first victory of the season on Sunday, beating Cal Poly 97-96 on a go-ahead 3-pointer from redshirt senior Emily Easom with 12 seconds left to play. In a game with 14 lead changes the Hornets knocked down 19 threes and forced 34 turnovers to earn the win.
- A former two-time All-Big Sky selection at Portland State, Emily Easom leads Sacramento State scoring 16.5 points per game through her first two contests as a Hornet. She shot 5-of-10 from 3-point range and totaled 17 points against Cal Poly after she scored a team-high 16 points at San Francisco.
- The Hornets have forced 64 turnovers in two games, creating at least 30 opponent giveaways in each game. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and is averaging nearly eight more so far this year, scoring 64 points off those 64 turnovers.
- For the third consecutive season Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I in 3-pointers made (12.5) and steals (14.9) per game last year. It also led in offensive rebounds (20) and turnovers forced (24.16) per game and was second in points per game (87.5), trailing only national champion UConn.
- Nevada is 1-1 after an overtime loss against Long Beach State (97-93) and a home win over Portland (72-59). The Wolf Pack were 5-25 last year but have won 10 straight meetings with the Hornets. Nevada leads NCAA Div. I with 50 made free throws and 65 free throw attempts in just two games.
Sacramento State picked up its first victory of the season on Sunday, beating Cal Poly 97-96 on a go-ahead 3-pointer from redshirt senior Emily Easom with 12 seconds left to play. In a game with 14 lead changes the Hornets knocked down 19 threes and forced 34 turnovers to defeat Cal Poly for the first time since 1995. The Hornets won their regular season home opener for the first time since the 2013-14 season when the team started the year 11-1 and had four nail biting home wins in non-conference play similar to Sunday's contest.
Scouting Nevada (1-1)
Nevada went 5-25 overall last year and was 4-14 to finish in 10th place in the Mountain West. The team lost seven letterwinners but returned three starters and added five newcomers. The Wolf Pack opened the season with two home games last week, narrowly losing to Long Beach State, which was picked to win the Big West, 97-93 in overtime before a 72-59 victory over Portland. Sophomore Rianna Everidge averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last week while junior Halie Bergman, a transfer from Pacific, shot 7-of-12 (58.3%) from 3-point range and scored 23 points in the two games. Nevada leads NCAA Div. I with 50 made free throws and is fourth with 65 attempted in just two games. Nevada has won 10 straight meetings with Sacramento State, dating back to the last Hornet win in 1995, but the teams have not faced each other since 2010,
Redshirt senior Emily Easom has played three seasons of Big Sky basketball but just made her Hornet debut on Friday at San Francisco. A former two-time all-Big Sky selection at Portland State, Easom transferred to Sacramento State after three seasons as a Viking. After having to redshirt last year, Easom is leading the Hornets with 16.5 points per game through the first two contests of this season. She made five 3-pointers including the winning shot with 12 seconds left against Cal Poly and scored a team-high 16 points in the season opener at San Francisco.
Seniors Brianna Burgos and Gretchen Harrigan, two of the team's top three returning scorers from last season, both have not played yet this season due to injury. Burgos missed the last four games of the 2015-16 with a knee injury and is still working her way back while Harrigan was injured in the preseason. Senior Kyhonta Doughty and junior Taylor Brown are also sidelined with injuries while senior Ashlyn Crenshaw missed the team's first exhibition game before returning.
Filling the Void
Sacramento State's five eligible newcomers this season have been pressed into action with the team missing four injured returners and have had strong starts to their Hornet careers. Freshman Tiara Scott is averaging 12.5 points and leads the team with seven steals playing a team-high tying 22.0 minutes per game and freshman Quayonna Harris has chipped in 8.0 points per game. Freshman Kennedy Nicholas and junior transfer Alexia Mefi have helped fill Doughty's role in the post, with Nicholas tallying five steals and a block, and Dajhae Mullins has contributed nine points shooting 40.0%.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced 64 turnovers in two games, creating at least 30 opponent giveaways in each game. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and is averaging nearly eight more forced turnovers per game so far this season. Coincidentally the Hornets have scored exactly 64 points off those 64 forced turnovers, outscoring the opposition 64-38 in that category while taking 43 more shots than their opponents.
Throughout her career senior Ashlyn Crenshaw has been one of the best shooting guards in the Big Sky in terms of field goal percentage. She is a 43% field goal shooter for her career and has been even better so far this season, shooting 13-of-19 (68.4%) from the field through two games. She was 5-for-7 at San Francisco and 8-of-12 against Cal Poly, consistently getting to the basket and finishing in close shooting a video game-like 12-of-15 (80%) on 2-point field goal attempts. She ranks second on the team scoring 14.5 points per game to go with 3.0 steals, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game so far this season.
A Veteran Squad
The Sacramento State roster has 20 total years of experience playing under coach Bunky Harkleroad, a far cry from the experience the team had through Harkleroad's first three seasons leading the program. The six-member senior class and the five-member junior class are both the biggest the team has had in the last four years.
The Nation's Best
For the third consecutive season Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I in 3-pointers made (12.5) and steals (14.9) per game last year. The team finished second in the nation, behind only national champion UConn, scoring a program-record 87.5 points per game, and also led Div. I with 20 offensive rebounds per game and 24.16 turnovers forced per game and were second with a 9.68 turnover margin.
Sacramento State faces another challenging non-conference schedule this season. The Hornets will face multiple Pac-12 teams for the fourth straight year, hosting USC and playing at California, which received votes in the preseason polls. The Hornets open against NCAA Tournament team San Francisco, face WAC champ and NCAA Tournament team New Mexico State and WBI semifinalist Youngstown State in Hawaii, and host WNIT team Hofstra. In all the Hornets will play 10 games against teams that reached the postseason last year.
Staying on 17
Sacramento State has an unprecedented 17 players on its 2016-17 roster. Sophomore Hannah Friend has to redshirt after transferring from Delaware, but the other 16 players could all see action this season. Injuries may prevent that from happening, but, in theory, the team could have three full lines of players to sub in and out should they decide to do so. Fifteen Hornets saw action last season, with 14 playing in almost every game in which they here healthy.
Sacramento State won by an average of 36 points in exhibition wins over Holy Names (92-55) and San Francisco State (81-46). After slow starts the Hornets trailed after the first quarter in both games before pulling away. Sacramento State outscored Holy Names 51-21 in the second half and outscored San Francisco State 69-24 in the last 29 minutes of the game. The Hornets held their two exhibition opponents to 30.3% shooting from the field and 22.7% shooting from 3-point range while forcing 60 total turnovers.
The only fifth-year senior on the Sacramento State roster, forward Margaret Huntington put together huge numbers in the two Hornet exhibition games. She had double-doubles in both games, going for 14 points and 16 rebounds against Holy Names and tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds vs. San Francisco State. Huntington, who has seven career double-doubles in the regular season, shot 45.8% in the two games and added six assists and five steals. With 10 rebounds through two games this season Huntington now ranks seventh in program history with 596 career rebounds.
Sacramento State has 40 steals in two games after again leading NCAA Div. I averaging 14.9 steals per game last year. The Hornets have led NCAA Div. I in steals for three consecutive seasons and averaged 2.3 more steals per game than the second place school in the nation, Santa Clara, last year. The Hornets also own the Big Sky record for steals in a game, tallying 30 at Portland State in 2015.
Preseason All-Big Sky
Senior guard Brianna Burgos was one of just six players named to the Preseason all-Big Sky Women's Basketball team. Last season Burgos led the Big Sky and ranked 8th in NCAA Div. I with 3.19 3-pointers made per game while tying the single season program record with 86 made 3-pointers, doing so despite missing the last four games of the season due to injury. Burgos shot 36.1% from 3-point range last season and is a career 36.8% shooter from long range. Last season she also tied the program record with nine made 3-pointers in a game, and she sits eighth in program history with 143 made 3-pointers in her career.
Pac The Nest
For the second consecutive season Sacramento State will host a Pac-12 team in The Nest when the team faces USC on Dec. 3. The Hornets hosted No. 19 UCLA in The Nest last season and will be playing multiple Pac-12 teams for the fourth straight season, playing at Cal for the third straight year. The Hornets have three wins all-time against Pac-12 teams but are 0-4 all-time hosting Pac-12 schools.
Junior guard Maranne Johnson had a fantastic end to her sophomore season, scoring at least 15 points in eight of the last 11 games last year, and scored a team season-high 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range in the win over Cal Poly on Sunday. She scored a career-high 31 points and 25 points in the team's two Big Sky Tournament games last year and finished the year with 22 double-digit scoring games and eight 20-point games. She ranked fourth in the Big Sky averaging 2.4 steals per game and sixth in the league making 79 three-pointers, the fourth most in a season in program history. Last year she was named Big Sky Player of the Week twice and was on the all-tournament team for the Cal Classic.
All The Threes
Sacramento State knocked down 25 threes in two games last season, surpassing the previous NCAA Div. I record of 22 set by Florida Gulf Coast in 2013. The team shot a season best 25-of-55 (45.5%) from beyond the arc at Portland State and were 38.5% at Montana State. Sacramento State owns every Div. I record for single-game and season 3-point makes and attempts. Last season the Hornets hit 20 or more 3-pointers four times while the rest of NCAA Div. I had one such game (Long Beach State).
In With the New
Sacramento State has six newcomers on the 2016-17 roster. The Hornets added true freshmen Quayonna Harris, Tiara Scott, and Kennedy Nicholas as well as three transfers in juniors Alexia Mefi and Dajhae Mullins and sophomore Hannah Friend. Coach Bunky Harkleroad has brought in at least three transfers in each of his three recruiting seasons at Sacramento State, and Mullins came from the same junior college (Trinity Valley) as senior Kyhonta Doughty. The freshman class adds tremendous depth at the point guard position in Harris and Scott while Nicholas, at 6-3, becomes the tallest player Harkleroad has had as the Hornet head coach.
Big Sky Polls
Sacramento State was picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big Sky Media Poll and tied for seventh in the Big Sky Coaches' Poll. The Hornets earned 86 points in the media poll, coming in just three points behind Idaho State and 10 points ahead of Weber State. In the coaches' poll, Sacramento State and Weber State were tied for seventh with 60 points, four behind Idaho State. The polls were split on the Big Sky champion, with Montana State earning the first-place vote in the media poll and Idaho taking the top spot in the coaches' poll.
The JC Route
Coach Bunky Harkleroad is a big proponent of adding junior college players, and doing so has been a big part of the success he has had leading the program. He brought in five JC players in his first recruiting class in 2014-15, one more in 2015-16, and two more this year, while he also added two NCAA Div. I transfers as well. Among the quality JC transfers Harkleroad has brought in, Adella Randle-El was all-Big Sky First Team last season while leading the team in virtually every statistical category and Gretchen Harrigan has been named all-Big Sky honorable mention and the league's Top Reserve