SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State (9-16, 5-9 Big Sky) plays its final road games of the regular season this week, facing Northern Arizona (7-18, 3-11 Big Sky) at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday and Southern Utah (5-20, 0-14 Big Sky) at 1:00 p.m. Pacific on Saturday.
The Northern Arizona game will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona Plus and FOX College Sports Pacific, available on DirecTV channel 686-1 and Dish Network channel 450 SD/9573 HD. Both games will also stream live on watchbigsky.com and the Big Sky app.
The Starting Five
- Freshman Tiara Scott scored a career-high 25 points against Montana State, shooting 9-of-14 overall and 7-of-11 from 3-point range with four rebounds and two assists despite playing only 21 minutes.
- The Hornets have allowed just 74.5 points in the last 11 games after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of 19 points permitted per game.
- Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky in threes and steals per game, Margaret Huntington leads the league in rebounds per game, and Justyce Dawson leads the conference in assist to turnover ratio.
- Northern Arizona ended a seven-game losing streak with a 77-65 win over Southern Utah last Saturday. Margaret Huntington had a double-double in an 82-76 Hornet win over NAU in January.
- The Hornets scored 34 points in the first quarter in an 81-69 win over Southern Utah in January. The Thunderbirds are the only winless team in Big Sky play but have taken to league opponents to OT.
Scouting Northern Arizona (7-18, 3-11 Big Sky)
Northern Arizona ended a seven-game losing streak with a 77-65 home win over Southern Utah last Saturday. Two of the team's three Big Sky wins have been against Southern Utah while the other was a surprise home win over Eastern Washington. The Lumberjacks are last in the league and second to last in NCAA Div. I with just 27 blocked shots this season but are second in the league with only 14.4 turnovers per game. NAU is also a solid free throw shooting team at 75.2% at the line and are led by Olivia Lucero with 15.1 points per game. When the teams met in January in The Nest 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 an 82-76 win. Margaret Huntington had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds in the third straight Hornet win over the Lumberjacks.
Scouting Southern Utah (5-20, 0-14 Big Sky)
The only winless team in Big Sky play, Southern Utah has taken two conference teams to overtime, including a double-ot loss to Idaho State, but has been outscored by 9.7 points per game in league games. The Thunderbirds are third in the league with 9.4 steals per game but rank in the bottom quarter of the league in almost every other statistical category. Six of the team's 14 league losses have come by five points or less. Sacramento State scored 34 points in the first quarter and forced 33 turnovers in an 81-69 win when the teams met in The Nest in January. Gretchen Harrigan and Ashlyn Crenshaw each had 18 points and Margaret Huntington had 11 rebounds in the win. Darri Frandsen had 19 points for the T-Birds and leads the team averaging 12.9 points per game this year. The Hornets have won five straight games vs. SUU with two straight wins in Cedar City.
Freshman Tiara Scott put together her best performance against Montana State, scoring a career-high 25 points while knocking down 7-of-11 shots from 3-point range. She shot 9-of-14 (64%) overall and had four rebounds and two assists. She scored 25 points despite playing only 21 minutes.
After scoring 65 or fewer points in four straight games the Hornet offense erupted with 99 points in a 99-69 win over Montana last Thursday. The Hornets hit 12 threes, the most since making 15 vs. Portland State on Jan. 7, and topped 90 points for the first time in Big Sky play. Sacramento State topped 80 points again on Saturday vs. Montana State.
Oh What a Night
Senior Margaret Huntington recorded one of the most impressive stat lines in program history vs. Montana. She shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and 3-of-3 at the line with 15 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and three steals in 24 minutes. She posted her seventh game this season with 13 or more rebounds and her fourth game with 17+ boards. She leads the Big Sky and ranks 47th in Div. I averaging 9.3 rebounds per game this season after recording her 11th career double-double.
Sacramento State had allowed just 71.5 points per game over its last 10 games prior to the loss to Montana State. The Hornets are still allowing just 74.5 points in the last 11 games after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of 19 points. The team's opposing field goal percentage has dropped from .516 to .471 in the last 11 games and the Hornets have a +9.5 turnover margin compared to a +6.2 margin through the first 14 games. For the year the Hornets are 7-4 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-12 when allowing 80 or more.
Margaret Huntington and Maranne Johnson each recorded double-doubles on vs. Montana, the first time this season that the team had two double-doubles in the same game. Johnson had a game-high 21 points, hitting five 3-pointers, with 10 rebounds to go with Huntington's 15 points and 17 boards. The pair are the only Hornets with double-doubles this season, with Huntington totaling four and Johnson two.
Beating the Griz
Sacramento State recorded its largest margin of victory over Montana in program history with the 30-point win last Thursday. Paired with a 73-60 win in Missoula in January the Hornets completed a season sweep of the Lady Griz for the first time in program history. The win at Montana 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 have now won four straight home games against Montana after having been 1-15 all-time at home against the school.
Exceptional Ball Control
Sacramento State committed just five turnovers 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. The team had just seven turnovers vs. Montana State on Saturday while forcing 18.
Bunky Harkleroad's 500th career game as a head coach was Feb. 11 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 had a 316-184 overall record through 500 games coached.
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.
Getting to the Line
The Hornets have shot at least 16 free throws and made it last 11 in six straight games. The team shot a season-best 15-of-16 (93.8%) from the line vs. Weber State and, after shooting just 65.0% from the free throw line in the non-conference season, the Hornets are shooting 71.0% at the stripe in Big Sky games.
Sacramento State is second in Div. I averaging 13.2 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 13 of their last 14 games, recording 17+ thefts six 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 16th in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.08 made 3-pointers per game after leading 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 eight 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 (204) and in career steals (238).
After missing the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury, senior forward Gretchen Harrigan has averaged 13.3 points per game through 12 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 nine of her 12 games played. Unfortunately, Harrigan was injured just one minute into Saturday's game and did not return.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's success this year. The Hornets are averaging 13.2 made 3-pointers and 34% shooting from the arc in their nine wins against 8.8 3-point makes per game and 25% shooting from long range in the 16 losses. The team is 7-3 when shooting at least 30% from 3-point range this season but 2-13 when shooting below 30%.
Close L's, Bigger W's
Sacramento State's five Big Sky wins have come by an average scoring margin of +14.0. Five of the team's Big Sky loss have been by seven or less points, including a 2-point and 4-point loss.
Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in scoring, offensive rebounds, steals, turnover margin, and turnovers forced and is second in made 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 21 different starting lineups in 25 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.