SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After consecutive wins Sacramento State (6-10, 2-3 Big Sky) embarks on the ever-challenging Montana trip, beginning the week at Montana State (11-5, 4-2 Big Sky) at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time Thursday night.
The Starting Five
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson is second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.75 made 3-pointers per game. She has made at least one 3-pointer in 27 consecutive games (dating back to last season) and has multiple threes in 23 of those 27 contests. She is also just 61 points shy of 1,000 career points.
- Over the first eight games of the season the Hornets averaged 91.6 points per game and allowed 94.4, but over the last eight games the team is averaging 79.6 and allowing 87.4. Sacramento State is allowing 6.5 fewer points per game in Big Sky play than in the non-conference season.
- The Hornets once again leads the Big Sky in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, 3-pointers, turnover margin, and turnovers forced. The team has led the league in each of those categories in all four seasons under coach Harkleroad and led nationally in three, steals, and offensive rebounds.
- Senior forward Gretchen Harrigan missed the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury but has been a huge addition for the Hornets. In three games back she has averaged 14.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, scoring at least 11 points in each game with 18 in the win over Southern Utah.
- Montana State began the season 1-3 but is 10-2 since, including a 4-2 start to Big Sky Conference play with two road wins. Picked to win the Big Sky in the preseason media poll, the Bobcats are 6-0 at home this season and lead the league while ranking 13th in Div. I with 44.5 rebounds per game.
Scouting Montana State (11-5, 4-2 Big Sky)
Montana State began the season 1-3 but is 10-2 since, including a 4-2 start to Big Sky conference play. Two of the team's four Big Sky wins have come in overtime while both of its losses were by just eight points. Picked to win the Big Sky in the preseason media poll, the Bobcats are 6-0 at home this season and are the best rebounding team in the league, leading the conference and ranking 13th in Div. I with 44.5 rebounds per game. The team is 7th in the nation with 31 defensive rebounds per game and also leads the league in rebound margin as well as field goal percent defense and 3-point percentage. Peyton Ferris is the second leading scorer in the league averaging 17.6 points per game shooting 50.5% overall and 45.5% from 3-point range. The Bobcats have won four of the last five meetings between the teams and the Hornets have not won in Bozeman since 2013.
#2 from 3
Junior guard Maranne Johnson is second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.75 made 3-pointers per game, just fractionally behind Saint Francis guard Jessica Kovatch (3.86). 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 six other games. She has made at least one 3-pointer in 27 consecutive games (dating back to last season) and has multiple threes in 23 of those 27 contests. In just her third collegiate season Johnson ranks second in program history in career 3-pointers (187) and is tied for third in in career steals (209).
Maranne Johnson is also just 61 points shy of becoming only the 13th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. If she reaches that plateau this season she would be just the fifth player in program history to score 1,000 points win just three seasons as a Hornet.
In Sacramento State's 82-76 home win over Northern Arizona on Saturday the last 3+ minutes of each half proved to be the difference. The Hornets held the Lumberjacks without a made field goal over the last 3:33 of the first half and over the last 3:20 of the second half. In that time Sacramento State outscored NAU 18-5, permitting just five Lumberjack free throws over the stretch. The Hornets ended the first half on an 8-1 run and ended the second on a 10-4 run to win despite being outscored 71-64 over the other 33+ minutes of the game.
Over the first eight games of the season the Hornets averaged 91.6 points per game and allowed 94.4, but over the last eight the team is averaging 79.6 and allowing 87.4. The total number of points is 19 fewer over the last eight games than the first eight. Sacramento State has not reached 90 points at all in the last eight games while doing so six times through the first eight, but the team's improved defense has enabled the Hornets to win three games (among the last eight) while scoring 82 points or fewer. Sacramento State is allowing 6.5 fewer points per game in Big Sky play than in the non-conference season.
Sacramento State senior forward Gretchen Harrigan missed the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury but has been a huge addition for the Hornets over in her three games back. She has averaged 14.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in her return, scoring at leas 11 points in each game with 18 in the win over Southern Utah. She is shooting 44% and had four steals against Northern Arizona on Saturday.
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 at UC Irvine and have played just five true road games so far this season.
More Shots = More Points
Bunky Harkleroad's "System" is predicated on creating significantly more shots than the opposition and the Hornets have thrived at that over the last three games. The Hornets took 27 more shots than both Portland State and Southern Utah and 22 more shots against Northern Arizona, beating the T-Birds and Lumberjacks and falling by just two points to the Vikings despite all three opposing teams recording significantly higher field goal percentages. The Hornets have had at least 19 offensive rebounds and forced at least 27 turnovers in each of the last three games.
Back on Top
Sacramento State once again leads NCAA Div. I with 11.4 made 3-pointers per game. The team has led the nation in that category for three straight years and is back on top again this week. The Hornets finished 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 team's season-high 21 made 3-pointers vs. Stanislaus State are the most by a Div. I team in a game this season.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced over 23 turnovers per game this year, creating at least 23 opponent giveaways in seven games with four 30-turnover games. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and currently ranks 5th this year. The Hornets have scored 382 points off 373 forced turnovers while creating 16.1 more shots per game than their opponents this season.
Home Cooking in Conference
Sacramento State is 23-8 in home Big Sky games under head coach Bunky Harkleroad. Of the team's eight 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 four Big Sky conference games redshirt senior Emily Easom is 25-of-28 (89.3%) from the free throw line. She has both made and attempted more free throws than any other Big Sky player in conference games. 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. Also, among qualified players, senior Margaret Huntington leads the Big Sky in free throw percentage in conference games, shooting a perfect 10-of-10. 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 14.6 points per game this year and has scored in double figures in 10 straight games.
Happy at Home
In nine home games this season the Hornets have averaged 90.3 points per game shooting 39% overall and 33% from 3-point range. The team is averaging 13.3 made 3-pointers per game and 14.7 steals per game at home with a +10 turnover margin. By comparison, in seven away games (five road games and two neutral site) the Hornets have averaged just 79.6 points shooting 35% overall and 24% from three.
Back in Action
The Hornets are closer to full strength with the return of senior forward Gretchen Harrigan, who played her first game of the season last Saturday after being sidelined with a two injury. Brianna Burgos also began the season injured, having missed the last four Hornet games last season and the first six this year recovering from surgery. Harrigan was the team's third leading returning scorer from last season and Burgos was number one, with the two of them combining to average more than 25 points per game. The team is still missing senior forward Kyhonta Doughty, who is unlikely to play this year.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington pulled down a career-high 21 rebounds 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. She has seven double-digit rebounding game this year and three games with 17 or more boards. Her 10.0 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and rank 31st in NCAA Div. I. She is fifth in program history with 746 career rebounds.
Sacramento State once again leads the Big Sky in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, 3-pointers, turnover margin, and turnovers forced. The team has led the league in each of those categories in all four seasons under coach Bunky Harkleroad and has also been the national leader in 3-pointers, steals, and offensive rebounds per game as well as turnover margin.
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 this season, shooting 47.9% 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 at 39.6% from beyond the arc, the best long range shooting average on the team. She averages 10.6 points per game and is second in the Big Sky with 2.6 steals per game. She also pulled down a career-high nine rebounds at UC Irvine.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's success this year. The Hornets are averaging 14.2 made 3-pointers and 34% shooting from the arc in their six wins against 9.7 3-point makes per game and 26% shooting from long range in the 10 losses. The team is 5-1 when shooting 30% or better from 3-point range this season but 1-9 when shooting lower than 30% from the arc.
Bunky Harkleroad will coach his 500th career game as a head coach on Feb. 11 at Idaho State. Ironically, Pocatello is also the place where Harkleroad picked up his 300th career win last season. In 17 seasons as a head coach Harkleroad has had a losing record in just three seasons.
Cleaning the Glass
The Hornets had a season-high 25 offensive rebounds vs. Stanislaus State and rank 6th 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 10 games this year and average 16.1 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 rank seventh in the nation scoring 85.6 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 this year is averaging 12.7 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.
Sacramento State has used 13 different starting lineups in 16 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 5th in Div. I averaging 12.1 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.