SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After a couple of tough losses facing consecutive Pac-12 teams, Sacramento State (3-6) plays its final non-conference road game of the season at UC Irvine (1-7) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State broke the Big Sky scoring record in a 126-78 win over UC Irvine in The Nest last season. The 48-point margin of victory was the largest in program history against a Div. I team as the Hornets forced 38 Anteater turnovers and had an early 19-0 run to lead by 20 five minutes in.
- The Hornets played in front of a near capacity crowd against USC last Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader with the Hornet men. The crowd was the biggest in the four-year tenure of coach Bunky Harkleroad as the Hornets hosted a Pac-12 team for the second straight season.
- Sacramento State ranks second in the nation with 12.1 made 3-pointers per game, are fifth scoring 89.6 points per game, and 11th with 23.22 turnovers forced per game. The team is also 14th with 12.9 steals per game, 16th in offensive rebounds, and 23rd in turnover margin as of Friday morning.
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson poured in a career-high 37 points last 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 15th highest scoring total in NCAA Div. I this season.
- UC Irvine is 1-7 this season but has played only one home game, its season opener on Nov. 11. UCI is -16.1 in scoring margin with six of its seven losses coming by more than 10 points, but the lone Anteater win was a 72-59 victory at Nevada, a team the Hornets lost to 99-95 in The Nest Nov. 16.
Scouting UC Irvine (1-7)
UC Irvine is just 1-7 this season but has played only one home game, its season opener on Nov. 11. The Anteaters have only one win but it came at Nevada (72-59), a team the Hornets lost to at home 99-95. For the season UCI is -16.1 in scoring margin with six of its seven losses coming by more than 10 points. UC Irvine played at fellow Big Sky member Portland State in its last game, falling 79-73. UCI is averaging just 55.2 points per game with senior Shereen Southerland leading the team with 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Southerland averaged 19.0 points and 10.5 boards in two games last week. The all-time series between the teams is tied 5-5 but Sacramento State has won the last two meetings and is 3-2 in Irvine. The Anteaters have won the last two meetings in Irvine, however, though the teams haven't met in the Bren Events Center since 2011.
The Hornets have two straight wins over UC Irvine and posted a historic 126-78 victory over the Anteaters in The Nest last season. Sacramento State broke the Big Sky scoring record in the win and the 48-point margin of victory was the largest in program history against a Div. I team. The Hornets scored 55 points off 38 UCI turnovers and had a 19-0 run in the first quarter to lead 24-4 just five minutes into the game. Sacramento State also beat UC Irvine in The Nest in 2013 but that was just a 99-94 final.
Rare Road Games
Sacramento State played just one true road game all season before the Cal game on Thursday. The Hornets opened the regular season at San Francisco on Nov. 11 but hadn't played a true road game since with five home games and two neutral site games in Hawaii. The team is now in a stretch of four of five games on the road, starting Big Sky Conference play with two road contests to end the calendar year.
Pac The Nest
Sacramento State played in front of an announced crowd of 954 fans against USC on Saturday, the largest crowd in the four-year tenure of head coach Bunky Harkleroad. In the second game of a doubleheader with the Hornet men, a near capacity crowd was on hand as the Hornets hosted a Pac-12 team for the second consecutive season and the sixth time in program history. The Hornets hosted No. 19 UCLA in The Nest last season and will played multiple Pac-12 teams for the fourth straight season after Thursday's contest at Cal. The Hornets have three wins all-time against Pac-12 teams but are now 0-6 all-time hosting Pac-12 schools. Sacramento State last beat a Pac-12 team in 2013 with a 97-85 win at Oregon after topping Oregon State in 2012.
The Hornets played at Cal for the third consecutive season, marking the longest such streak in program history against any non-conference opponent. California was nationally ranked in all three meetings (No. 10 in 2014, No. 17 in 2015, No. 24 this year). The teams were not guaranteed to meet last year in the Cal Classic but both lost on the first day of the tournament to meet on the second.
Junior guard Maranne Johnson poured in a career-high 37 points last 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 14th most points scored by an NCAA Div. I player this season. She came back with 15 points on Saturday vs. USC and ranks 10th in Div. I with 32 made threes this season.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington has totaled 70 rebounds in her last six 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. Her 87 total rebounds this season lead the Big Sky and rank 28th 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 last Tuesday and saw 11 minutes against Cal on Thursday, playing for the first time since suffering a knee injury in February. She missed the last four Hornet games last season and the first six this year recovering from surgery. 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. She did not play vs. USC but Knocked down a pair of threes at Cal.
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% shooting from the arc in their three wins against 8.8 3-point makes per game and 24% shooting from long range in the six losses. The team has made at least 16 threes and shot at least 37% from three in each of its wins. The Hornets currently rank second in NCAA Div. I averaging 12.1 made 3-pointers per game after leading the nation in each of the last three seasons.
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 44% field goal shooter for her career and has been even better so far this season, shooting 42-of-80 (52.5%) from the field. She was 8-of-12 against both Cal Poly and Hofstra and 6-of-7 vs. USC, consistently getting to the basket and finishing in close. She also improved her outside shooting game, leading the team at 42.3% (11-of-26) from the arc. She ranks third on the team scoring 11.4 points per game and also paces the team defensively, leading the Big Sky and ranking 55th in NCAA Div. I with 22 steals this year.
In five home games this season the Hornets have averaged 97.2 points per game shooting 42% overall and 37.1% from 3-point range. In four away games (two road games and two neutral site games) the Hornets have averaged just 80.0 points while shooting 33.7% overall and 21.8% from the arc.
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 shooters.
The Hornets rank fifth in the nation scoring 89.6 points per game this season after finishing second behind only national champion UConn in scoring offense last year. Sacramento State has led the Big Sky in scoring in seven straight seasons and averaged 12.6 more points last year than the second highest scoring team in the league, Montana State. The Hornets have scored at least 90 points in six of nine games this year.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced 209 turnovers in nine 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 23.22 so far this year. The Hornets have scored 222 points off those 209 forced turnovers while creating over 15 more shots per game than their opponents.
Lighting It Up From Long Range
Redshirt senior Emily Easom is 26-of-71 (37%) from 3-point range this season and shot 10-of-20 (50%) from three in two games last week. 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 15.1 points per game this year with 15 or more points scored in six contests, including two 20-point games.
As has typically been the case, Sacramento State again played one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the Big Sky. The Hornets have faced two 2015-16 NCAA Tournament teams (San Francisco and New Mexico State), WNIT semifinalist Hofstra, and WBI semifinalist Youngstown State before taking on two Pac-12 teams, including No. 24 California. 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.
Sacramento State has used eight different starting lineups in nine 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.
Sacramento State is 14th in Div. I averaging 12.9 steals per game this season after again leading the nation with 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.