POCATELLO, Idaho – Sacramento State (8-14, 4-7 Big Sky) will look to get back in the win column and give Bunky Harkleroad a victory in his 500th game as a head coach when the Hornets play at Idaho State (13-9, 7-4 Big Sky) at 1 p.m. Pacific time Saturday in Pocatello.
The Starting Five
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 at NAIA, NCAA DI, and DII Harkleroad has had a losing record just three times.
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 last Saturday vs. Idaho. She leads the Big Sky in threes and steals while ranking 11th in NCAA Div. I with 3.23 made 3-pointers per game this year.
In the last eight games the Hornets have allowed just 70.9 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 6-3 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
After missing the first 13 games of the season with a toe injury, senior forward Gretchen Harrigan has averaged 15.2 points per game through nine contests and has led the team in scoring in six of them. She scored a career-high 23 points against Idaho shooting 13-of-14 at the free throw line.
Idaho State has won four straight games and is 8-2 at home this season. The Bengals are the best defensive team in the Big Sky, holding opponents to just 60.5 points per game overall and 57.3 in league play. Sacramento State won at Idaho State for the first time in program history last season.
Scouting Idaho State (13-9, 7-4 Big Sky)
Idaho State has won four straight games and is 8-2 at home this season. The Bengals handed Montana State one of its two Big Sky losses and also have a win over Idaho and took league-leading North Dakota to overtime. ISU is the best defensive team in the Big Sky, holding opponents to just 60.5 points per game overall and 57.3 in league play with a conference-best .368 opposing field goal percentage. The Bengals’ +6.5 rebounding margin is also best in the Big Sky but the team has the worst assist turnover ratio and scores just 59.5 points per game. Saylair Grandon is Idaho State’s leading scorer at just 11.4 points per game with Grace Kenyon averaging 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. Sacramento State won at Idaho State for the first time in program history last season, 68-59, and has won four straight meetings between the teams after being 3-35 all-time.
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 at the NAIA and NCAA D I and D II levels Harkleroad has had a losing record just three times. A win on Saturday would also be his 150th NCAA victory.
1,000 in Three Seasons
Last 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.
Sacramento State’s 52 field goal attempts 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 Hornets shot a solid 43% from the field in the second half but attempted just 21 field goals, and only eight threes, in the 20 minute half. Fewer shots and 19 turnovers hampered the Hornets as they scored fewer than 70 points for the third straight game after scoring more than 70 in each of the first 19 games this season.
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 has shot at least 16 free throws in three straight games and has shot better than 70% at the line in three of the last four games. After shooting just 65.0% from the free throw line in the non-conference season the Hornets are shooting 72.3% at the stripe in Big Sky games.
In the last eight games the Hornets have allowed just 70.9 points per game after permitting 93.5 points per game through the first 14 contests of the season, a difference of more than 22 points. The team’s opposing field goal percentage has dropped from .516 to .470 in the last eight games and the Hornets have allowed nearly seven fewer shots per game, thanks in part to a +8.4 turnover margin compared to a +6.2 margin through the first 14 games. For the year the Hornets are 6-3 when allowing less than 80 points and 2-11 when allowing 80 or more.
Winning on the Road
The Hornets have won two of their last three Big Sky road games. The team has won two 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.
Big Sky Best
Junior guard Maranne Johnson leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers and steals per game. She is 11th in NCAA Div. I averaging 3.23 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 (198) and in career steals (232).
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 had the same result each night, either both winning or both losing against the same opposing school, until the women lost to Weber State and the men beat the Wildcats on Thursday. Several of the men’s and women’s games have played out similarly; 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, five of the team’s seven Big Sky loss have been by seven or less points, including a 2-point and 4-point loss.
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 nine 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 nine 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 41% from the field and 81% 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 8.9 3-point makes per game and 27% shooting from long range in the 14 losses. The team is 7-3 when shooting at least 30% from 3-point range this season but 1-11 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 12.9 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 10 of their last 11 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 46th 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 792 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.
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 18 different starting lineups in 22 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.
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 third this year. The Hornets have scored 501 points off 491 forced turnovers while creating 13.5 more shots per game than their opponents this season.