MISSOULA, Mont. - After a narrow four-point loss at Montana State on Thursday night Sacramento State (6-11, 2-4 Big Sky) looks to win its first ever game in Missoula facing injury-plagued Montana (3-15, 0-7 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Pacific time Saturday.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State's 84-80 loss at Montana State on Thursday was the team's second Big Sky loss by four points or fewer and third conference loss by seven points or less. The Hornets were within two possessions in three of their four Big Sky losses, losing by just two points, 88-86, vs. Portland State.
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson is second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.65 made 3-pointers per game. She has made at least one 3-pointer in 28 consecutive games (dating back to last season) and has multiple threes in 24 of those 28 contests. She is also just 47 points away from 1,000 career points.
- 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 four games back she has averaged 15.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, scoring at least 11 points in each game with 19 on Thursday at Montana State.
- Montana has been decimated by injuries this season, losing preseason Big Sky Player of the Year Kayleigh Valley before the season started and missing two other returning starters. Montana is scoring just 51.9 points per game this year but the Hornets are winless (0-21) all-time in Missoula.
Scouting Montana (3-15, 0-7 Big Sky)
Montana has been decimated by injuries this season, losing preseason Big Sky Player of the Year Kayleigh Valley before the season started and losing returning starter Alycia Sims after just one game played. Another returning starter, Mekayla Isaac, has missed eight games. Two of Montana's three wins have come against Non D-I teams and the other was against Incarnate Word, a team transitioning from Div. II to Div. I. The Lady Griz rank last in the Big Sky in scoring (51.9 ppg), field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throw percentage, steals, and assists. Montana does allow just 65.2 points per contest. Taylor Goligoski is the only Griz player averaging double-figures with 11.2 points per game. Sacramento State has never defeated Montana in Missoula (0-21 all-time) but has three home wins over the Grizzlies in the last four seasons with an 83-75 OT win last year.
Close in Conference
Sacramento State's 84-80 loss at Montana State on Thursday was the team's second Big Sky loss by four points or fewer and third by seven points or less. The Hornets were within two possessions in three of their four Big Sky losses, including two road league games.
#2 from 3
Junior guard Maranne Johnson is second in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.65 made 3-pointers per game, just behind Saint Francis guard Jessica Kovatch (3.76). 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 28 consecutive games (dating back to last season) and has multiple threes in 24 of those 28 contests. In just her third collegiate season Johnson ranks second in program history in career 3-pointers (189) and is third in in career steals (214).
Maranne Johnson is also just 47 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 in 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 nine the team is averaging 79.7 and allowing 87.0. The total number of points is 19 fewer over the last nine games than the first eight. Sacramento State has not reached 90 points in any of the last nine 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 nine) while scoring 82 points or fewer. Sacramento State is allowing 9.5 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 four games back. She has averaged 15.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in her return, scoring at leas 11 points in each game with 18 vs. Southern Utah and 19 at Montana State. She is shooting 44% and had four steals against Northern Arizona last 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 six 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 four 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 and four at Montana State despite all four opposing teams recording significantly higher field goal percentages. The Hornets have had at least 16 offensive rebounds and forced at least 23 turnovers in each of the last four games.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced over 23 turnovers per game this year, creating at least 23 opponent giveaways in eight 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 404 points off 396 forced turnovers while creating 15.4 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. 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. She missed Thursday's contest due to an illness.
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 9.8 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and rank 36th in NCAA Div. I. She is fifth in program history with 753 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.