SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (8-14, 4-8 Big Sky) looks to complete a season sweep of Montana (5-19, 2-11 Big Sky) for the first time in program history when the Hornets host the Lady Griz at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. The contest will serve as the team's annual Pink Game for breast cancer awareness.
The Starting Five
- Sacramento State committed just five turnovers on Saturday at Idaho State, the team's fewest since having just four giveaways Feb. 28, 2015 against Portland State. The Hornets forced 21 turnovers and had a commanding 22-2 scoring advantage in points off turnovers while creating 20 more shots.
- Bunky Harkleroad's 500th career game as a head coach was 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 at NAIA, NCAA DI, and DII Harkleroad has had a losing record just three times.
- In the last nine games the Hornets have allowed just 71.8 points per game after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of nearly 22 points. For the season the Hornets are 6-4 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
- Sacramento State's 73-60 win at Montana Jan. 21 was the team's first road victory over the Lady Griz in program history. The Hornets also have won three straight home games against Montana after having been 1-15 all-time at home and are looking for their first ever season sweep of the Griz.
- Montana was winless (0-11) in Big Sky play before home wins last week over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The lowest scoring team in the league averaging 54 points per game, Montana is 0-9 on the road this season and has lost by more than 15 points in five of its six Big Sky road games.
Scouting Montana (5-19, 2-11 Big Sky)
Montana was winless (0-11) in Big Sky Conference play before a pair of home wins last week over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The Lady Griz also pushed league-leading Montana State to overtime in their third most recent game. Montana is 0-9 on the road this season and has lost by more than 15 points in five of its six Big Sky road games. Montana ranks last in the league in field goal and 3-point percentage as well as scoring offense, averaging just 54 points per game. The team has committed the second fewest fouls among all Big Sky teams. When the Hornets and Griz met in Missoula Jan. 21 seniors Gretchen Harrigan and Ashlyn Crenshaw combined for 39 points and the Hornets led wire-to-wire and shot 46% from the field in a 73-60 win. Harrigan had 20 points, shooting 8-of-12, and Crenshaw had 19 points shooting a career-best 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
Exceptional Ball Control
Sacramento State committed just five turnovers on Saturday at Idaho State, the team's fewest since having just four giveaways Feb. 28, 2015 against Portland State. The Hornets forced 21 turnovers and had a commanding 22-2 scoring advantage in points off turnovers, its second best differential of the season. Sacramento State has outscored its opponent in points off turnovers in all but one game this season.
Scoring Spread Out
Eleven different players scored for the Hornets in the loss at Idaho State. Everyone that played more than seven minutes scored at least two points, with senior Brianna Burgos and freshman Quayonna Harris tying for the team lead with nine points. Sacramento State did not have a player score in double figures for the first time in more than eight years, since a loss to UTEP on Dec. 30, 2008.
Beating the Griz
Sacramento State's 73-60 win at Montana Jan. 21 was the team's first road victory over the Lady Griz in program history as the Hornets had been 0-21 all-time against the Griz in Dahlberg Arena. The Hornets also have won three straight home games against Montana after having been 1-15 all-time at home against the school.
In the last nine games the Hornets have allowed just 71.8 points per game after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of nearly 22 points. The team's opposing field goal percentage has dropped from .516 to .476 in the last eight games and the Hornets have a +9.2 turnover margin compared to a +6.2 margin through the first 14 games. For the year the Hornets are 6-4 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
Bunky Harkleroad's 500th career game as a head coach was 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 at the NAIA and NCAA D I and D II levels Harkleroad has had a losing record just three times. He has an outstanding 316-184 overall record through 500 games coached.
Sacramento State has scored 65 or fewer points in four straight games after scoring no less than 71 points through the first 19 games of the season. The Hornets are averaging 60.8 points per game in the last four contests after averaging 84.2 points per contest prior.
1,000 in Three Seasons
On Feb. 4 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.
Happy at Home
In 11 home games this season the Hornets have averaged 85.1 points per game shooting 38% overall and 32% from 3-point range. The team is averaging 12.1 made 3-pointers per game and 13.7 steals per game at home with a +9.3 turnover margin.
Shots Back Up
Sacramento State's 52 field goal attempts last Thursday at Weber State matched the fewest the Hornets have attempted in a game in nearly eight years, going back to 43 shots against Northern Colorado on March 7, 2009. The team was able to play more at its usual pace on Saturday, getting 71 shots away against Idaho State while allowing just 51. After shooting 39% at Weber State the Hornets shot just 31% against the Bengals, however.
Converting at the Line
A positive from the Weber State game was free throw shooting, as the Hornets shot a season-best 15-of-16 (93.8%) from the line. Sacramento State got to the line 19 times against Idaho State and has shot at least 16 free throws in four straight games, shooting better than 70% at the line in three of the last five games. After shooting just 65.0% from the free throw line in the non-conference season the Hornets are shooting 71.4% at the stripe in Big Sky games.
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.
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 11 of their last 12 games, recording 17+ thefts five 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.
Big Sky Best
Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers and steals per game. She is 14th in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.13 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 career 3-pointers (199) and in career steals (232).
After missing the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury, senior forward Gretchen Harrigan has averaged 14.4 points per game through 10 contests and has led the team in scoring in six of them. She scored a career-high 23 points against Idaho and has scored in double figures in eight of her 10 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 40% from the field and 79% from the free throw line.
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 8.6 3-point makes per game and 26% shooting from long range in the 15 losses. The team is 7-3 when shooting at least 30% from 3-point range this season but 1-12 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.
Close L's, Bigger W's
Sacramento State's four Big Sky wins have come by an average scoring margin of +10.0. Five of the team's Big Sky loss have been by seven or less points, including a 2-point and 4-point loss.
Dominating the Glass
Senior forward Margaret Huntington's 9.1 rebounds per game this season lead the Big Sky and rank 58th 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 fourth in program history with 795 career rebounds.
Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, turnover margin, and turnovers forced and is second in 3-pointers. 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 has used 19 different starting lineups in 23 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.
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.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced more than 22 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 523 points off 512 forced turnovers while creating 13.8 more shots per game than their opponents this season.
To Every Season Turn, Turn, Turn
Through 11 Big Sky games this season the Hornets are +8.3 in turnover margin while no other conference team is better than +3.4. Over the last six seasons Sacramento State improved its turnover margin from -3.1 to +1.8 to +3.8 to +8.3 to +11.97 and was +9.68 last year. The team ranked second in Div. I last year, having fewer turnovers than their opponent in all but three games, and is ninth at 7.00 this season.