SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's basketball team (4-7) opens Big Sky Conference play with its longest (and coldest) league road trip, playing at Northern Colorado (8-3) on Thursday night and at North Dakota (5-6) in a New Year's Eve matinee on Saturday.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State has won a program-record five Big Sky road games in two consecutive seasons. The Hornets opened Big Sky play with a 3-1 record in three straight years with a pair of road wins.
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky and ranks second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.91 made 3-pointer per game. She has made five or more 3-pointers in five games this season.
- Johnson leads the team and ranks second in the Big Sky scoring 17.0 points per game and leads the Big Sky with 2.45 steals per game. She has scored 20 or more points in four of her last six games.
- Sacramento State once again leads NCAA Div. I with 12.0 made 3-pointers per game. The Hornets are also sixth in scoring, ninth in offensive rebounds, and 11th in turnovers forced per game.
- Northern Colorado enters Big Sky conference play with the best non-conference record in the league (8-3). North Dakota was picked to finish second in the preseason Big Sky coaches poll.
Scouting Northern Colorado (8-3)
Northern Colorado, which was picked to finish ninth in both Big Sky preseason polls, enters Big Sky Conference play with the best non-conference record in the league (8-3). Four of the team's eight wins have come by four points or fewer The Bears are 4-1 at home, including wins over Florida Gulf Coast and San Diego. UNC leads the Big Sky and ranks 12th in NCAA Div. I shooting 78.2% from the free throw line and is second in the conference in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense, holding the opposition to just 37.8% shooting. Savannah Smith leads the team averaging 14.1 points per game and Courtney Smith averages 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds and leads the Big Sky shooting 58.0% from the field. The Hornets are 9-11 all-time against the Bears but 2-7 at Northern Colorado and have not won in Greeley since the 2009-2010 season.
Scouting North Dakota (5-6)
North Dakota has won three of its last four games and is 5-3 since losing its first three games of the season. The Fighting Hawks had a 71-63 home win over San Francisco, who the Hornets fell to in their season opener. Traditionally the biggest team in the Big Sky since joining the conference in 2012-13, UND leads the league again with 50 blocked shots but are just seventh in the league in rebounds per game. Picked to finish second by the coaches and fifth by the media in the preseason Big Sky polls, North Dakota also leads the league in made free throws but has committed more fouls than any other Big Sky team. The Hawks have nearly scored and allowed the exact same number of points this season (788-786) with Makailah Dyer leading the team with 13.5 points per game. Sacramento State is 5-2 all-time against North Dakota with a 2-1 record in Grand Forks.
Big Big Sky Starts
Sacramento State has opened Big Sky Conference play with a 3-1 record in three consecutive seasons. The Hornets had the benefit of beginning conference play with three straight home games last season and in 2013-14 but picked up an early road win at Idaho State last season and at Southern Utah in 2014-15. The Hornets have won their first Big Sky road game in two of the last four years.
Winning on the Road
Sacramento State won five Big Sky road games last year to tie the program record set by the 2014-15 squad. The program had never had a winning record in league road games in a season until it has now happened in two straight seasons. The Hornets picked up their first road win of this season in their last road contest at UC Irvine.
Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky and ranks second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.91 made 3-pointer per game, trailing only North Dakota State guard Taylor Thunstedt (4.00). Johnson made a career-high eight 3-pointers against Stanislaus State, scoring 37 points for the ninth highest single game scoring total in program history, and has made at least five 3-pointers in four other games. Johnson leads the team and ranks second in the Big Sky scoring 17.0 points per game and leads the Big Sky with 2.45 steals per game. She has scored 20 or more points in four of her last six games and, in just her third season, already ranks fourth in program history in career steals and fifth in made 3-pointers.
Back on Top
Sacramento State once again leads NCAA Div. I with 12.0 made 3-pointers per game. The team has led the nation in that category for three straight years, finishing the season at 12.5 made 3-pointers per game in each of the last two years after averaging 12.4 in the 2013-14 season.
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 by the coaches.
Cleaning the Glass
The Hornets had a season-high 25 offensive rebounds vs. Stanislaus State and ranks 9th in Div. I averaging 18 offensive boards per game this year. As a result, the Hornets have outscored their opponent in second chance points in all but three games this year and average 14.5 more shots per game than the opposition. Last season the squad led NCAA Div. I with 20 offensive rebounds per game for the second straight year.
The Hornets opened the season missing five players due to injury, and seniors Gretchen Harrigan and Kyhonta Doughty 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.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington has totaled 85 rebounds in her last eight games. The stretch includes a pair of 17-rebound games, against New Mexico State and Hofstra, as well as a 13-rebound performance. Her 9.3 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and rank 49th in NCAA Div. I. The fifth-year senior ranks seventh in program history with 688 career rebounds. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Bank of Hawaii Classic earlier this year.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's early season success this year. The Hornets are averaging 16.8 made 3-pointers and 38% shooting from the arc in their four wins against 9.3 3-point makes per game and 24.9% shooting from long range in the seven losses. The team is 4-1 when shooting 30% or better from 3-point range this season but winless (0-6) when shooting lower than 30% from the arc.
In a tough shooting game at UC Irvine, Sacramento State scored 17 points over the last five minutes to pull out a win after scoring just 61 points through the first 35 minutes of the game. The Hornets outscored the Anteaters 17-8 over the last 4:52 to turn a 62-61 deficit into a 78-70 win. Sacramento State shot 5-of-8 (62.5%) over the last five minutes, made six free throws, and outrebounds the Anteaters 7-4 to close the game out.
Senior guard Brianna Burgos made her season debut vs. Stanislaus State, 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 knocked down a pair of threes at Cal and hit three long range shots vs. UC Davis.
Sacramento State concluded non-conference play having faced one of the toughest schedules in the Big Sky. The Hornets played two 2015-16 NCAA Tournament teams (San Francisco and New Mexico State), WNIT semifinalist Hofstra, and WBI semifinalist Youngstown State before facing two Pac-12 teams, including No. 24 California. The Hornets play 10 total games this season against teams that reached the postseason last year.
Sacramento State has used 10 different starting lineups in 11 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 2014-15.
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 46-of-90 (51.1%) 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 has also improved her outside shooting, leading the team at 43.3% (13-of-30) from beyond the arc. She ranks third on the team scoring 10.4 points per game and is second in the Big Sky with 2.4 steals per game. Crenshaw also pulled down a career-high nine rebounds at UC Irvine.
Pac The Nest
Sacramento State played in front of an announced crowd of 954 fans against USC on Dec. 3, 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 also facing No. 24 Cal.
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 15.3 points per game this year with 15 or more points scored in seven contests, including two 20-point games. She ranks fourth in the Big Sky with 2.73 made 3-pointers per game and leads the team shooting 36-of-48 (75.0%) from the free throw line.
The Hornets rank sixth in the nation scoring 87.5 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 this year is averaging 14.6 more points than the second highest scoring team in the league, Portland State. The Hornets have scored more than 90 points in six games this season.
The Hornets have three straight wins over UC Irvine after picking up a 78-70 road win in Irvine last Saturday. That win came Sacramento State 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. Sacramento State also beat UC Irvine in The Nest in 2013 by a 99-94 final.
Sac Signs Four
Head coach Bunky Harkleroad announced four newcomers in in November. Dana Degraffenreid (Bakersfield, Calif./Ridgeview HS), Skylar Jackson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman HS), Tiana Johnson (Kalispell, Mont./Flathead HS), and Anna Weibel (Estes Park, Colo./Estes Park HS) will join the program next Fall to help offset the loss of six Hornet seniors this season.
Sacramento State is 20th in Div. I averaging 11.9 steals per game this season after averaging 14.9 steals per game last year to lead NCAA Div. I for the third straight season. The Hornets also own the Big Sky record for steals in a game, tallying 30 at Portland State in 2015.