The record-setting Sacramento State men’s basketball team will have a chance to achieve another milestone this weekend.
The Hornets can earn their first 5-0 start with a win Saturday against South Dakota (2-3) in Sac State’s own four-team, two-day Sacramento State Basketball Invitational at The Nest.
Eastern Washington (2-2), the 2014-15 Big Sky Conference regular-season co-champion, will host Pacific (1-3) in Saturday’s second game. On Sunday, Eastern Washington will open against South Dakota and Sac State will close the night against Pacific, which is making its first appearance at The Nest since 2008.
It’s Sac State’s first time hosting a tournament since the Holiday Classic in 1995 at Arco Arena.
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Sac State seemed unlikely to be 4-0 after graduating star guards Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity from last season’s team that produced Division I bests for the program in overall and conference wins.
Sac State, however, started the season with upsets at Arizona State and Seattlebefore beating Holy Names and UC Davis at home. The Hornets and Aggies play again Wednesday night at the Pavilion.
“I would hope at this point we are mature enough to get beyond looking past anyone,” Sac State coach Brian Katz said about a possible letdown this weekend with a Causeway Cup game looming. “But I don’t take anything for granted. We’ll definitely address it.”
South Dakota of the Summit League has lost to Wright State 77-69, Northern Illinois 72-65 and Kansas State 93-72. The Coyotes have beaten Northridge 76-72 and South Dakota Mines and Technology 82-63.
Sac State senior guard Cody Demps said the Coyotes, led by senior guards Tre Burnette (18.0 points per game, 8.3 rebounds) and Casey Kasperbauer (16.0 points), look impressive on video.
“I think they are really talented, so it will be a good game,” said Demps who tied his career high of 22 points in Tuesday’s 84-79 win over UCD. “But we’re confident. One thing coach says, ‘Respect everyone, but fear no one.’ ”
The invitational is the brainchild of Katz and Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford. They are good friends and shared Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year honors during breakout campaigns last season.
“It’s really hard for schools like us to get home games,” Katz said. “Most schools are buying games. They’re paying big money for home games.”
It’s the type of money that neither the Hornets nor the Eagles can afford in trying to attract teams to their respective home courts. Sac State’s 1,000-seat gym is among the smallest in D-I.
So the Hornets and other mid-major teams often horse trade. In 2016-17 Sac State will play at South Dakota and also travel to Cheney, Wash., where Eastern Washington will host a tournament that tentatively will include Denver and USF.
“So for them they get two home games, one neutral court game and one away game,” Katz said of South Dakota and Eastern Washington. “That’s good for them.”
Sac State’s nonconference slate this season includes six games at home and five on the road. It’s just the fourth since the start of the D-I era in 1991 that the Hornets are playing more home than away games.
A bonus for The Nest – Diehard Sac State basketball fans can make it a tripleheader on Saturday as the Hornets (1-2) women will play their home opener at 12:05 p.m. against USF (3-2), though it requires a separate ticket from the men’s event. Sac State opened the season with a win at Utah State, but then fell at New Mexico State and New Mexico last week.
Aggies on the road – The UCD men’s and women’s teams will be on the road this weekend. The UCD women (2-2) play 7 p.m. Friday at Portland State (0-4) and 2 p.m. on Sunday at Portland (2-3) as they try to extend a two-game winning streak. The UCD men’s team (2-2), looking to bounce back from its loss to Sac State, is at Utah Valley (2-3) 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Sacramento State Basketball Invitational
Saturday: Sacramento State vs. South Dakota, 3:35 p.m.; Pacific vs. Eastern Washington, 6:35 p.m.
Sunday: Eastern Washington vs. South Dakota, 2:35 p.m.; Sacramento State vs. Pacific, 5:35 p.m.
Day pass: Reserved (Section 2, 3, 4 and 7), $20; adult general admission (Sections 1 and 5), $15; ages 3-17, $10; 65 and older, $10; Sac State students, free with OneCard.
Sac State game ticket: Reserved (Section 2, 3, 4 and 7), $15; adult general admission (Sections 1 and 5), $10; ages 3-17, $5; 65 and older, (Sections 1 and 5), $5; Sac State students, free with OneCard.