SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (4-9, 0-2 Big Sky) plays its first Big Sky home game and opens its longest conference home stand of the season hosting Portland State (6-8, 0-2 Big Sky) at 12:05 p.m. Saturday in The Nest.
Fans can purchase buy one, get one free tickets for Saturday's game and for all Sacramento State men's and women's basketball and gymnastics home events through January 14.
The Starting Five
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads NCAA Div. I averaging 3.85 made 3-pointers per game through games played on Thursday. She has made at least five 3-pointers in five games this season, hitting eight vs. Stanislaus State, and is second in program history with 177 career 3-pointers.
- Sacramento State has scored 473 points in its last four games against Portland State, averaging 118 points per game and winning by an average margin of 42 points. Three of the four highest scoring games in program history have come in the streak, including a Big Sky record 132 points last year.
- The Hornets have won their Big Sky home opener in five consecutive seasons, with two of those wins coming against Portland State. Sacramento State is 21-7 in home Big Sky games under head coach Bunky Harkleroad, and of the seven losses, just three have been by more than six points.
- In six home games this season the Hornets have averaged 94.0 points per game, shooting 40% overall and 36% from 3-point range. The team is averaging 14.5 made 3-pointers per game and 13.7 steals per game at home with a +7.0 turnover margin, topping 90 points in five of six games.
- Portland State leads the Big Sky shooting 43.1% overall and leads the league and ranks 22nd in Div. I with 304 free throw attempts. However, the Vikings have more turnovers (313) than any other Div. I team. Ashley Bolston leads the Big Sky with 4.9 assists per game and free throws (65-of-76, 85.5%).
Scouting Portland State (6-8, 0-2 Big Sky)
Portland State will be playing its eighth consecutive away game (three neutral site) on Saturday and has played just three home games. The Vikings have lost four straight games and are 1-6 in true road games, but lost by just four points, 65-61, at North Dakota last Thursday. Portland State leads the Big Sky shooting 43.1% from the field and leads the league and ranks 22nd in Div. I with 304 free throw attempts this season (21.7 attempts per game). However, the Vikings have more turnovers (313) than any other team in Div. I (22.4 turnovers per game). Sophomore Washington State transfer Ashley Bolston leads the Big Sky with 4.9 assists per game and 76 free throw attempts, making 65 (85.5%). Courtney West leads the league with 2.21 blocks per game and Sidney Rielly is second in field goal percentage (51.5%) and leads the team with 15.7 points per game.
Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads NCAA Div. I averaging 3.85 made 3-pointers per game. She took over the national lead from North Carolina's Stephanie Watts, who was limited to three made triples Thursday night. 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 16.8 points per game and is second on the team with 2.31 steals per game. She has made multiple threes in all but one game this year and, in just her third season, now ranks second in program history in career 3-pointers (177) and fourth in in career steals (191).
Going back two seasons, Sacramento State has scored 473 points in its last four games against Portland State, averaging 118 points per game and winning by an average margin of 42 points. Three of the four highest scoring games in program history have come in those games as have three of the four largest margins of victory against Div. I opponents in program history. The Hornets broke the NCAA record with 25 made 3-pointers in Portland last season and broke the Big Sky record with 132 points at home against the Vikings last year. Sacramento State has also broken the program record for single-game assists in each of the last two meetings. The Hornets have won five straight meetings and nine of the last 10 games between the teams.
Home Big Sky Starts
The Hornets have won their Big Sky home opener in five consecutive seasons. Two of those wins have been against Portland State while the squad also opened home league play with wins over Northern Arizona, North Dakota, and Montana State in the last five years.
Home Cooking in Conference
Sacramento State is 21-7 in home Big Sky games under head coach Bunky Harkleroad. Of the team's seven home conference losses in Harkleroad's tenure just three have been by more than six points. The team was +7.7 in scoring margin and allowed just 80.9 points per game in nine Big Sky home games last year.
In two Big Sky conference games redshirt senior Emily Easom is 17-of-19 (89.5%) from the free throw line. No other Big Sky player has shot more than 12 free throws thus far in league play. She was a perfect 7-of-7 at Northern Colorado and 10-of-12 at North Dakota, becoming just the third Big Sky player to make 10 or more free throws in a game this season. Easom has played three seasons of Big Sky basketball but just made her Hornet debut this year after being a two-time all-Big Sky selection at Portland State. Easom is second on the team with 15.4 points per game this year with 15 or more points scored in eight contests, including two 20-point games.
Happy to be Home
In six home games this season the Hornets have averaged 94.0 points per game shooting 40% overall and 36% from 3-point range. The team is averaging 14.5 made 3-pointers per game and 13.7 steals per game at home with a +7.0 turnover margin. By comparison, in seven away games (five road games and two neutral site games) the Hornets have averaged just 79.6 points while shooting 35% overall and 24% from the arc.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington pulled down a career-high 21 rebounds last Thursday at Northern Colorado, tied for the third most rebounds in a game in program history. She posted the first 20-rebound game for any Hornet player since 2013 and the most since Kylie Kuhns had a program-record 23 boards in 2010. Her total tied for the 5th most rebounds any NCAA Div. I player has had in a game this season. The game was her fifth double-digit rebounding game of the year and third game with 17 or more boards. Her 9.8 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and she ranks sixth in program history with 713 career rebounds.
Sacramento State leads the Big Sky with a 5.5 turnover margin, but that number is down from recent seasons. When the Hornets reached the quarterfinals of the WNIT in the 2014-15 season the squad finished with a +12.0 turnover margin, and the number was +9.7 last year. The team is forcing approximately two fewer turnovers per game compared to the last two seasons while turning the ball over roughly two more times themselves.
Back on Top
Sacramento State once again leads the Big Sky in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, 3-pointers, turnover margin, and turnovers forced. The Hornets are fractionally second in NCAA Div. I with 11.46 made 3-pointers per game, narrowly tailing Washington (11.50). 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.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's success this year. The Hornets are averaging 16.8 made 3-pointers and 38% shooting from the arc in their four wins against 9.1 3-point makes per game and 25% shooting from long range in the nine losses. The team is 4-1 when shooting 30% or better from 3-point range this season but winless (0-8) when shooting lower than 30% from the arc.
Cleaning the Glass
The Hornets had a season-high 25 offensive rebounds vs. Stanislaus State and rank 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 nine games this year and average 13.9 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.
The Hornets rank seventh in the nation scoring 86.2 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 13.4 more points than the second highest scoring team in the league, North Dakota. The Hornets have scored more than 90 points in six games this 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.
Sacramento State has used 11 different starting lineups in 13 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.
Sacramento State is 18th 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.