Sacramento State (6-4) at Northern Arizona (4-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 8:35 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (11,230) -- Flagstaff, Arizona. Television: FSN-AZ, NAU-TV. Home Record: Sacramento State 4-2, Northern Arizona 2-2. Away Record: Sacramento State 2-2, Northern Arizona 1-5. Neutral Record: Sacramento State 0-0, Northern Arizona 1-1. Conference Record: Sacramento State 1-1, Northern Arizona 1-1. Series Record: Northern Arizona leads, 30-10.
GAMES NOTES: A pair of teams in need of a win will face off when the Sacramento State Hornets battle the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in a Big Sky matchup at Walkup Skydome.
After just narrowly being edged out by Montana, 61-60, on a last-second free throw, Sacramento State has lost three of its last four games. The Hornets are now 6-4 this season, including a 1-1 mark in Big Sky action. Up next Sacramento State hosts Southern Utah on Monday.
Northern Arizona was not nearly as competitive in its most recent outing when BYU routed the Lumberjacks 84-54 in Provo. The loss was the third straight for the Lumberjacks who are just 4-8 overall. Only four of those games have come at home for Northern Arizona which is 2-2 at the Walkup Skydome. The Lumberjacks will also face Southern Utah in their next game, this Saturday.
Last year these teams split the season series with the home team coming out on top each time. Northern Arizona had won 14 straight against the Hornets before Sacramento State's win last season. The Lumberjacks lead the all-time series 30-10.
Sacramento State rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half and managed to tie the game 60-60 on a Dylan Garrity 3-pointer with seven seconds left against Montana. However the Grizzlies got a free throw from Will Cherry on the other end and Garrity missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds to end the game in a Hornet loss.
The Hornets are one of the better teams in the Big Sky on the offensive end. Sacramento State is scoring 72.8 points per game, which ranks third in the conference, despite shooting just 42.2 percent from the field. Four different players are scoring in double figures, led by John Dickson (15.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) who has anchored the team in the frontcourt along with Konner Veteto (11.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg). In the backcourt, Mikh McKinney (13.5 ppg) and Garrity (13.0 ppg, 5.5 apg) are the top performers.
The Lumberjacks were really taken to task on the interior against BYU, which outscored Northern Arizona 40-18 on points in the paint. Northern Arizona also turned the ball over 24 times. The Lumberjacks shot just 36.7 percent in the game, with Michael Dunn (17 points) the only player in double figures.
Northern Arizona will have to improve on the defensive end quickly to slow down the Hornets. The Lumberjacks have let up 78.2 points per game this season while teams shoot at a 46.9 percent clip from the field. That is a real problem as the team nets just 65.9 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting. The tandem of Dewayne Russell (15.8 ppg) and Gabe Rogers (14.5 ppg) has been productive. Depth ends there though, as Max Jacobsen (7.8 ppg) is the only other player scoring more than seven points a game.
A return to the Walkup Skydome should help the Lumberjacks get back on track. What won't help is the Hornets' slew of scorers who should be able to find success against NAU's porous defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Sacramento State 73, Northern Arizona 67
01/03 10:45:23 ET