SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With two games remaining in the regular season Sacramento State (10-17, 6-10 Big Sky) hosts Big Sky-leading North Dakota (19-8, 14-2 Big Sky) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday in The Nest. The Hornets will then close the regular season hosting Northern Colorado on Friday night.
The Starting Five
- Heading into the final week of the regular season the Hornets could still finish anywhere between 7th and 10th in the final conference standings. Sacramento State will open play at the Big Sky Tournament on Monday in Reno, playing at either 12:05 p.m. (in the 8 vs. 9 matchup) or 5:35 p.m. (7 vs. 10).
- Junior Maranne Johnson is just two 3-point makes away from tying the single-season program record. She has made 84 threes this season, just two shy of the single-season program record of 86 made threes set by Hallie Gennett in 2014-15 and matched by senior Brianna Burgos last year.
- The Hornets knocked down 21 threes at Southern Utah while shooting 48.7% from beyond the arc, matching their 21 made threes earlier this year vs. Stanislaus State for the NCAA Div. I high this year. With their recent 3-point barrage the Hornets are second in Div. I with 10.7 made threes per game.
- Junior Justyce Dawson tallied 13 assists at Southern Utah, the second most assists in a game in program history. Her 13 assists were the most by a Hornet player in the Div. I era and just two shy of the overall record of 15. Dawson also had 10 points against SUU for her first career double-double.
- North Dakota can win the regular season Big Sky title with two wins this week. UND is 6-1 in road league games and ranks fifth in the nation in made free throws while also leading the Big Sky in blocks and rebounds. North Dakota beat the Hornets 94-71 in Grand Forks on New Years Eve.
Scouting North Dakota (19-8, 14-2 Big Sky)
North Dakota controls its own Big Sky destiny and can win the regular season title with two victories this week. The Fighting Hawks' only Big Sky losses came in overtime against Montana State and at Idaho and the team is + 6.1 in scoring margin in Big Sky games. UND is 6-1 in road league games and ranks fifth in the nation in made free throws while also leading the Big Sky in blocks and rebounds. The Hawks are the third highest scoring team in the league and are led offensively by Makailah Dyer, who is one of four UND players averaging double figures with 16.4 points per game. North Dakota beat the Hornets 94-71 in Grand Forks on New Years Eve, with Dyer scoring 21 points and Lexi Klabo totaling 16 points and 17 rebounds. UND made 28 free throws in the game and had a 60-36 rebounding edge. The Hornets are 3-1 all-time at home against the Fighting Hawks.
Big Sky Breakdown
Heading into the final week of the regular season the Hornets could still finish anywhere between 7th and 10th in the final conference standings. Sacramento State will open play at the Big Sky Tournament on Monday in Reno, playing at either 12:05 p.m. (in the 8 vs. 9 matchup) or 5:35 (7 vs. 10). As it stands right now Portland State is 7th, the Hornets and Weber State are tied for 8th, and Northern Arizona is 10th. Weber State owns the tiebreaker with Sacramento State having won the only meeting between the teams during the regular season.
Sacramento State had its best 3-point shooting game in Big Sky play this season in the 110-104 win at Southern Utah. The Hornets knocked down 21 threes in the game while shooting 48.7% from beyond the arc, matching their 21 made threes earlier this year vs. Stanislaus State for the NCAA Div. I high this year. No other Div. I school has made more than 20 in a game this season while the Hornets have hit 21 twice. The total is four shy of the NCAA record of 25 made by Sacramento State twice last season. With their recent 3-point barrage the Hornets are back up to second in Div. I with 10.7 made threes per game, just behind St. Francis (10.9).
Junior Maranne Johnson is just two 3-point makes away from tying the single-season program record. She has made 84 threes this season, just two shy of the single-season program record of 86 set by Hallie Gennett in 2014-15 and matched by Brianna Burgos last year. Johnson finished with 79 made threes last year, which is now fifth most in team history. Johnson is 27 made 3-pointers behind Alle Moreno's program career record of 238 career threes with still her full senior season to play.
Junior Justyce Dawson tallied 13 assists at Southern Utah, the second most assists in a game in program history. Her 13 assists were the most by a Hornet player in the Div. I era and just two shy of the overall record of 15 set by Tina Gray during the 1985-86 season. Dawson also scored 10 points against the T-Birds for her first career double-double and for the season leads the Big Sky and ranks 14th in NCAA Div. I with a 2.87 assist to turnover ratio.
After scoring 65 or fewer points in four straight games, averaging 60.8 points, the Hornets have averaged 94.8 points per game in their last four contests. The team is averaging 34 more points per game in the last four contests than the previous four. The Hornets topped 90 points twice with a season-high 110 points scored at Southern Utah and put up 88 at Northern Arizona. Sacramento State is shooting 40% and averaging 13.3 made 3-pointers in its last four games.
Home Cooking in Conference
Sacramento State is 24-11 in home Big Sky games under head coach Bunky Harkleroad. Of the team's 11 home conference losses in Harkleroad's tenure just five have been by more than seven points.
Big Sky Best
Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers and steals per game. She is 15th in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.11 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 nine other games, hitting six on Saturday at Southern Utah. In just her third collegiate season Johnson already ranks second in program history in career 3-pointers (211) and in career steals (242). She is also already eighth in Big Sky history in career threes.
Sacramento State is third in Div. I averaging 12.8 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 10 steals in 14 of their last 16 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.
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.
Happy at Home
In 13 home games this season the Hornets have averaged 85.9 points per game. The team is averaging 12.0 made 3-pointers per game and 14.0 steals per game at home with a +9.5 turnover margin.
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 54th in Div. I averaging 9.1 rebounds per game this season after recording her 11th career double-double.
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.
Getting to the Line
The Hornets have shot at least 16 free throws and made at last 11 in eighth 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 have shot 71.0% at the stripe in Big Sky games.
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 were the only Hornets with double-doubles this season, with Huntington totaling four and Johnson two, before Justyce Dawson recorded one with 10 points and 13 assists at Southern Utah.
The 3-point shot has been as critical as ever in Sacramento State's success this year. The Hornets are averaging 14.0 made 3-pointers and 35% shooting from the arc in their 10 wins against 8.8 3-point makes per game and 25% shooting from long range in the 17 losses. The team is 8-3 when shooting at least 30% from 3-point range this season but 2-14 when shooting below 30%.
Sacramento State has used 23 different starting lineups in 27 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.
Close L's, Bigger W's
Sacramento State's six Big Sky wins have come by an average scoring margin of +12.7. Six of the team's Big Sky losses have been by seven or less points, including a 2-point, 3-point, and 4-point loss.
Turning Over and Over
The Hornets have forced nearly 22 turnovers per game this year, creating at least 23 opponent giveaways in 10 games with four 30-turnover games. Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I with 24.16 turnovers forced per game last season and currently ranks fifth this year. The Hornets have scored 624 points off 592 forced turnovers while creating 13.2 more shots per game than their opponents this season.
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.
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.
Cleaning the Glass
The Hornets had a season-high 26 offensive rebounds vs. Montana and rank 7th in Div. I averaging 17 offensive boards per game this year. As a result, the Hornets have outscored their opponent in second chance points in 15 games this year and average 13.2 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.
To Every Season Turn, Turn, Turn
In Big Sky play this season the Hornets are +8.4 in turnover margin while no other conference team is better than +4.0. 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 sixth at +7.33 this season.