SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State women's basketball team (8-13, 4-6 Big Sky), which has won two straight Big Sky road games, is back on the road this week playing at Weber State (10-11, 4-6 Big Sky) at 11 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday and Idaho State (12-9, 6-4 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Pacific Saturday. Thursday's game at Weber State was moved to a noon start local time after originally being scheduled for a traditional 7 p.m. start.
The Starting Five
- Junior guard Maranne Johnson became the 13th player in program history to score 1,000 points and just the fifth to do so in only three seasons on Saturday vs. Idaho. She leads the Big Sky in threes and steals while ranking sixth in NCAA Div. I with 3.38 made 3-pointers per game this year.
- In the last seven games the Hornets have allowed just 71.6 points per game after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of 22 points. For the season the Hornets are 6-2 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
- Sacramento State leads the Big Sky and ranks in the top-10 in NCAA Div. I in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, 3-pointers, turnover margin, and turnovers forced per game. The Hornets rank second in Div. I averaging 10.8 threes per game and are fourth in steals and turnovers forced.
- After missing the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury, senior forward Gretchen Harrigan has averaged 15.5 points per game through eight contests and has led the team in scoring in five of them. She scored a career-high 23 points against Idaho shooting 13-of-14 at the free throw line.
- Weber State is second in the Big Sky, behind the Hornets, with a +3.48 turnover margin and has committed the second fewest turnovers but is last in the league in rebounding. Emily Drake leads the team averaging 14.6 points. The Hornets have won 13 of the last 15 games between the teams.
Scouting Weber State (10-11, 4-6 Big Sky)
Weber State began the season 5-0 and was 6-1 before winning just four of its last 10 games. The Wildcats have won two straight, earning road wins at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona last week. Weber State also has Big Sky wins over Idaho State and Montana but is just 2-3 in Big Sky home games. WSU is second in the league, behind the Hornets, with a +3.48 turnover margin and has committed the second fewest turnovers but is last in the league in rebounding, averaging just 36.5 rebounds per game. Emily Drake is third in the league with 2.9 made 3-pointers per game and leads the team with 14.6 points while Deeshyra Thomas scores 13.3 points per contest shooting 46.6% from the field. Sacramento State has won 13 of the last 15 meetings between the teams and had an eight-game winning streak against WSU before losing 77-66 in Ogden last season.
1,000 in Three Seasons
On Saturday vs. Idaho Maranne Johnson became the 13th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points. She is just the fifth Hornet to score 1,000 points in just three seasons, joining the elite group of Kristy Ryan, Heidi Carroll, Julie Wastell, and Kylie Kuhns. Johnson is the first Hornet player to reach 1,000 points since Fantasia Hilliard reached the milestone in 2015.
In consecutive games Sacramento State had its two lowest scoring halves since the 2013-14 season. The Hornets had just 22 points in the first half on Thursday and 21 on Saturday, scoring just eight points in the second quarter of both games. The team combined to shoot 16-of-72 (22.2%) overall and 2-of-24 (8.3%) from 3-point range in the two first halves. On Saturday the team was 0-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half, marking the first time in coach Bunky Harkleroad's tenure that the Hornets failed to make a three in the opening half.
Winning on the Road
The Hornets have won two straight Big Sky road games. The team is 2-3 in league road contests this year after winning 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.
In the last seven games the Hornets have allowed just 71.6 points per game after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of 22 points. The team's opposing field goal percentage has dropped from .516 to .479 in the last seven games and the Hornets have allowed nearly seven fewer shots per game, thanks in part to a +9.9 turnover margin compared to a +6.2 margin through the first 14 games. For the year the Hornets are 6-2 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
Big Sky Best
Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers and steals per game. She is sixth in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.38 made 3-pointers per game and led the nation in the category earlier this year. She 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 seven other games. She had made at least one 3-pointer in 31 consecutive games before shooting 0-of-4 from beyond the arc vs. Idaho. In just her third collegiate season Johnson already ranks second in program history in both career 3-pointers (198) and in career steals (228).
In Big Sky play the Sacramento State men's and women's basketball teams play the same opponents each game day, varying home and road locations. Through 10 league games the two teams have had the same result each night, either both winning or both losing against the same opposing school on all 10 nights. Several of the games have played out similarly as well; on Jan. 28 against Portland State the Hornet women erased a 13-point deficit to win while the men battled back from down nine points in the last two minutes to earn an overtime win.
Close L's, Bigger W's
Sacramento State's four Big Sky wins have come by an average scoring margin of +10.0. By comparison, four of the team's six Big Sky loss have been by seven or less points, including a 2-point and 4-point loss.
Bunky Harkleroad's 500th career game as a head coach will be Saturday at Idaho State. Coincidentally, 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.
After missing the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury, senior forward Gretchen Harrigan has averaged 15.5 points per game through eight contests and has led the team in scoring in five of them. She scored a career-high 23 points against Idaho and has scored in double figures in seven of her eight games played. She shot 13-of-14 from the free throw line against the Vandals, recording the most free throws made and attempted in a game since Fantasia Hilliard shot 14-of-18 at the line in 2011. Since her return Harrigan is shooting 42.3% from the field and has 3.5 rebounds per contest.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's success this year. The Hornets are averaging 13.4 made 3-pointers and 35% shooting from the arc in their eight wins against 9.2 3-point makes per game and 27% shooting from long range in the 13 losses. The team is 7-3 when shooting at least 30% from 3-point range this season but 1-10 when shooting below 30%. The Hornets made just two 3-pointers in the loss to Idaho, the team's fewest made threes in a game since Feb 28, 2013.
Sacramento State is fourth in Div. I averaging 13.0 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 have tallied at least 11 steals in nine of their last 10 games, recording 17+ thefts four times. Sacramento State has led Div. I in steals in three straight seasons and owns the Big Sky game record with 30 steals at Portland State in 2015.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington's 9.4 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and rank 49th in NCAA Div. I. She has eight double-digit rebounding game this year and three games with 17 or more boards. She pulled down a career-high 21 rebounds at Northern Colorado, tied for the third most rebounds in a game in program history, while posting 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. Huntington ranks fifth in program history with 783 career rebounds, just two behind Erika Edwards for fourth place.
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.
Sacramento State rallied for a 77-68 win at Portland State using a 22-0 run. Trailing the Vikings 58-45 with under three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Hornets scored five straight to end the period and started the fourth quarter 17-0 before the PSU scored again with 3:33 left to play. During the nine minutes and 19 seconds between Portland State points the Hornets allowed just six field goal attempts and no free throws while forcing seven turnovers.
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 Jan. 7 after being sidelined with a toe 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.
Sacramento State has used 17 different starting lineups in 21 games this season, with just three lineups used more than once. 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.
Home Cooking in Conference
Sacramento State is 23-10 in home Big Sky games under head coach Bunky Harkleroad. Of the team's 10 home conference losses in Harkleroad's tenure just four have been by more than seven points.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced nearly 23 turnovers per game this year, creating at least 23 opponent giveaways in nine games with four 30-turnover games. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and currently ranks fourth this year. The Hornets have scored 480 points off 474 forced turnovers while creating 14.3 more shots per game than their opponents this season.