The Sacramento State women’s basketball team has played 14 of its past 18 nonconference games on the road.
So the next five days will seem a bit foreign for the Hornets.
The Hornets (2-5) will play three nonconference opponents at the Nest, starting Friday against No. 19 UCLA (6-2). Big West Conference favorite Hawaii (4-5) visits on Sunday before the Hornets finish the homestand against UC Irvine (3-7), another Big West team, on Tuesday.
UCLA’s appearance at Sac State will be the first by a ranked team since the Hornets hosted Texas in 1994 and the first by a Pacific-12 Conference team since USC visited in 2000. The Bruins beat the Hornets 92-83 in Westwood last season en route to the WNIT championship.
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UCLA’s losses this season have come against No. 2 South Carolina by three points and to No. 3 Notre Dame in overtime. The Bruins have four McDonald’s high school All-Americans on their roster, led by sophomore Jordin Canada. She leads the team with 18.0 points per game.
“We’ve got a little let-up in the schedule,” Sac State coach Bunky Harkleroad said with a smile. “But why not? We get them to come to our place, and we will do what we can to get after them and see if we can’t make something special happen.”
It’s Sac State’s second game in two weeks against a Pac-12 school. The Hornets fell to No. 21 Cal 117-99 in the Cal Classic on Dec. 6, a game in which Sac State put up an NCAA Division I record 80 three-point attempts.
Seven of Sac State’s 11 nonconference games are against teams that made the postseason last season.
“We told our players, ‘It’s not about winning and losing; it’s winning and learning so we can get ready for Big Sky Conference play,’ ” Harkleroad said. “We try to win every game, but the games we don’t, there’s still a lot we can take away from them.”
Sac State will play six of its next seven games at home. After traveling to Cal Poly on Dec. 29 to finish nonconference play, the Hornets begin Big Sky games at home against Portland State on Jan. 2, Montana State on Jan. 7 and defending champion Montana on Jan. 9. The Hornets are 24-6 at home under Harkleroad.
Sac State is coming off a second-place finish last season in the Big Sky, its best conference finish since moving to Division I.
“I know our record doesn’t look so great,” said junior guard Brianna Burgos, who had a career-high 26 points in leading the Hornets past UC Davis 92-77 on Sunday. “But we had a tough preseason last year, started 2-10, and we wound up coming in second in conference. So I’m thankful for these games. Playing top teams makes us better.”
Sac State leads D-I schools in three-point shots made per game (12.6) and steals (14.4) and is second in offensive rebounds (22) and turnover margin (10.71).
Another Pac-12 challenge – The Sac State men (6-3) also will take on a Pac-12 team when they travel to Stanford on Monday to play the Cardinal (5-3).
The Hornets already have a road win this season over a Pac-12 school, upsetting Arizona State 66-63 in the season opener. The Hornets look to bounce back after losing their past two road games, against UC Davis and Portland.
Aggies host two – UC Davis (4-4) will try to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday when it plays Air Force (6-4) at the Pavilion in a nonconference game. It’s the first of two home games, as the Aggies also play Idaho (6-5) on Tuesday.
UC Davis has won 17 of its past 18 games at the Pavilion.
Aggies women in L.A. – The UCD women, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped last Sunday by Sac State, would like to bounce back at USC’s Women of Troy Classic this weekend at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
The Aggies (6-3) open Friday night against 2015 America East Conference champion and mid-major No. 16 Albany (7-2) . USC opens the four-team tournament against Florida A&M. The championship and consolation games are scheduled for Sunday.