SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State women's basketball team (3-4) brings a two game winning streak into a matchup with USC (6-1) at 7:35 p.m. Saturday in The Nest in what will be just the sixth home game in program history against a Pac-12 opponent.
The game will be the second half of a doubleheader with the Hornet men's basketball team, which hosts UC Merced with tipoff at 5:05 p.m. Fans can watch both games for the price of just one ticket. In addition, the Green Army, in partnership with Associated Students, Inc., will be collecting food for the ASI Food Pantry during both the men's and women's games. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State will host a Pac-12 team in The Nest for the second consecutive season and the sixth time in program history after UCLA visited last year. The Hornets have three wins all-time against Pac-12 teams, most recently at Oregon in 2013, but have never had a home Pac-12 victory.
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson poured in a career-high 37 points on Tuesday vs. Stanislaus State, the ninth highest single game scoring total in program history. She scored 27 points just in the first half and made eight 3-pointers, tying for the 12th highest scoring total in NCAA Div. I this season.
- In four home games this season the Hornets have averaged 97.8 points per game shooting 41.1% overall and 37.1% from 3-point range. The team is averaging 18.7 made 3-pointers and 40.0% shooting from the arc in its three wins with at least 16 made 3-pointers in each contest.
- Senior Margaret Huntington has 56 rebounds in her last four games, including a pair of 17-rebound contests. She is one of just four NCAA Div. I players with 17 or more rebounds in two games this season and leads the Big Sky and ranks 12th in NCAA Div. I with 73 total rebounds this year.
- USC improved to 6-1 this season with a 66-62 upset win at No. 19 Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Trojans are +12.3 in scoring margin this year and junior Kristen Simon has four double-doubles. The Hornets lost just 101-99 at USC in 2014 and lost a home game to the Trojans just 75-73 in 1991.
Scouting USC (6-1)
USC recorded a 66-62 upset at No. 19 Texas A&M on Wednesday to improve to 6-1 this season and hand the Aggies their first loss of the year. The only Trojan loss this season came at UNLV and the team is +12.3 in scoring margin. USC ranks 12th in the nation with 165 free throw attempts, averaging 23.6 attempts at the line per game, and are 20th in NCAA Div. I with 78 steals. Junior Kristen Simon ranks 7th nationally with four double-doubles and is averaging 15.3 points and 10.1 boards per game. USC is coached by basketball hall of famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who led the Trojans to two national championships, won an Olympic gold medal, and four WNBA titles. The Hornets lost by just two points, 101-99, at USC in 2014. Sacramento State will be hosting the Trojans for the third time, with the previous meetings in The Nest in 1991, a slim 75-73 USC win, and 2000.
Junior guard Maranne Johnson poured in a career-high 37 points on Tuesday vs. Stanislaus State, the ninth highest single game scoring total in program history. She was unstoppable right from the start, shooting 6-of-8 for 16 points in just the first quarter and totaling 27 in the first half. She finished with eight made 3-pointers, one shy of the program record, and was just eight points behind the program scoring record of 45, set by All-American Kristy Ryan in 1993. Her point total was the most for a Hornet since 2012 and tied for the 12th most points scored by an NCAA Div. I player this season.
Pac The Nest
Sacramento State will host a Pac-12 team in The Nest for the second consecutive season and the sixth time in program history when the team faces USC on Saturday. 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 next week. The Hornets have three wins all-time against Pac-12 teams but are 0-5 all-time hosting Pac-12 schools, with two of the previous home Pac-12 games also against USC. Sacramento State last beat a Pac-12 team in 2013 with a 97-85 win at Oregon after topping Oregon State in 2012.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington has totaled 56 rebounds in her last four games. The stretch includes a pair of 17-rebound games, against New Mexico State and Hofstra, as well as a 13-rebound performance. She is one of just four NCAA Div. I players that has totaled 17 or more rebounds in two games this year. That total was one shy of her career high of 18 boards, and the three huge rebounding games came after she scored a career-high 19 points shooting 9-of-12 vs. Nevada. Her 73 total rebounds this season lead the Big Sky and rank 12nd in NCAA Div. I. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Bank of Hawaii Classic.
Senior guard Brianna Burgos made her season debut on Tuesday, playing for the first time since suffering a knee injury in February. She played four minutes on Tuesday after missing the last four Hornet games last season and the first six this year. Burgos was one of just six players named to the Preseason all-Big Sky Women's Basketball team leading up to this season after she led the Big Sky and ranked 8th in NCAA Div. I with 3.19 3-pointers made per game last year. She was the top returning scorer for the Hornets after averaging 14.4 points per game last year.
Sacramento State concludes a three-game home stand on Saturday and has begun the year 3-1 on its home floor. In three home games this season the Hornets have averaged 97.8 points per game shooting 41.1% overall and 37.1% from 3-point range. In three away games (one road game and two neutral site games) the Hornets have averaged just 87.3 points while shooting 38.5% overall and 24.1% from the arc. The team has also averaged 16.0 steals per game at home compared to 12.3 steals per contest outside of The Nest.
Best Day From Three
In the win over Hofstra, Sacramento State put together arguably its best 3-point shooting performance in four seasons under coach Bunky Harkleroad. The team's 48.5% 3-point shooting mark was the second best the team has shot in the last four years but was the No. 1 shooting performance in a game in which the team made 10 or more threes. The Hornets finished 16-of-33 from distance against the Pride, knocking down at least three 3-pointers in each quarter. Maranne Johnson hit six while Tiara Scott (3-of-4), Raegen Rohn (3-of-6), and Ashlyn Crenshaw (2-of-3) were the most efficient long-range shooters.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's early season success this year. The Hornets are averaging 18.7 made 3-pointers and 40.0% shooting from the arc in their three wins against 8.0 3-point makes per game and 22.7% shooting from long range in the four losses. The team has made at least 16 threes and shot at least 37% from three in each of its wins. The Hornets are once again leading NCAA Div. I with 88 made 3-pointers this year.
Sacramento State faced USC two years ago while the team's 21 remaining regular season games after Saturday will be against teams it played just last season. On Tuesday the Hornets concluded a stretch of three straight games against first time opponents (Youngstown State, Hofstra, Stanislaus State)
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced 170 turnovers in seven games, creating at least 30 opponent giveaways in three games and 24 in another. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and is averaging 24.29 so far this year. The Hornets have scored 181 points off those 170 forced turnovers while creating nearly 15 more shots per game 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 32-of-64 (50.0%) from the field through seven games. She was 5-for-7 at San Francisco and 8-of-12 against both Cal Poly and Hofstra, consistently getting to the basket and finishing in close. She ranks third on the team scoring 10.9 points and also paces the team defensively, leading the Big Sky and ranking 28th in NCAA Div. I with 20 steals this year.
Over the last three weeks Sacramento State played three straight games against teams that played in the postseason last year. Hofstra made the semifinals of the WNIT last year while New Mexico State was in the NCAA Tournament and Youngstown State reached the semifinals of the WBI. The Hornets opened the year against NCAA Tournament team San Francisco and will face multiple Pac-12 teams for the fourth straight year, hosting USC and playing at California, which received votes in the preseason polls. In all the Hornets play 10 games against teams that reached the postseason last year.
The Hornets opened the season missing five players due to injury, and seniors Gretchen Harrigan and Kyhonta Doughty and junior Taylor Brown have still yet to play. Senior Brianna Burgos missed the first six regular season games and Ashlyn Crenshaw missed the first Hornet exhibition game before returning. Burgos and Harrigan were two of the team's top three returning scorers from the 2015-16 season.
Redshirt senior Emily Easom has played three seasons of Big Sky basketball but just made her Hornet debut this year. 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 second on the team with 15.0 points per game this year with 15 or more points scored in five contests, including 25 points vs. Stanislaus State on Tuesday. She made six threes against Stanislaus and is shooting a team-best 38.5% (20-of-52) from the arc this year.
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 12.0 points and 3.0 assists per game and freshman Quayonna Harris has chipped in 6.3 points per game. Freshman Kennedy Nicholas and junior transfer Alexia Mefi have helped fill Doughty's role in the post, with Nicholas leading the team with five blocked shots and averaging 3.2 rebounds, and Dajhae Mullins has contributed 7.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest shooting 44.1% from the field.
Sacramento State has 101 steals in seven 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. The Hornets also own the Big Sky record for steals in a game, tallying 30 at Portland State in 2015.
Sacramento State has used a different starting lineup in all seven games this season. The starters for each game are typically picked from a statistical formula using the individual totals from the previous game. The team used 22 different starting lineups in 31 games last year with just four lineups used more than once after rolling out 30 starting lineups in 34 games in the 2014-15 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.
Staying on 17
Sacramento State has a record 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.
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.