Sacramento State men’s basketball coach Brian Katz figures that if there is a team that can claim a home-court advantage in next month’s Big Sky Conference basketball tournament it’s his Hornets.
Sac State is a little more than two hours from the Reno Events Center, the first neutral site for the conference. All 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams, coming from eight other states, also will participate for the first time this year.
Despite being in 10th place, Katz said the Hornets (10-13, 3-9) still can create a buzz in their final six regular-season games that might entice fans to make the drive for the March 7-12 tournament.
“If we can get on a winning streak, it could potentially be an advantage for us,” Katz said. “We have four of our last six at home, and people tend to support you more when you win.”
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It might help that senior point guard Cody Demps will play his first home game in nearly two months Thursday when the Hornets take on Eastern Washington (15-10, 9-4).
“We feel as if we are whole again,” Katz said. “Cody will make a difference for sure in these final three weeks before the tournament.”
Demps missed nine Big Sky games with a quad injury before returning last Thursday at Weber State and then playing Saturday at Idaho State.
While the Hornets lost both games, Katz said there was a noticeable defensive improvement as Demps started to shed rust from his layoff.
The Hornets’ co-captain averaged 8.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 26 minutes, though sophomore forward Justin Strings led the team with a career-high 14 rebounds and 11 points against Weber State and a career-high 24 points and nine rebounds against Idaho State.
Eastern Washington, which has won its last six games, features Big Sky scoring leader Austin McBroom, who averages 21.3 points per game.
McBroom, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, scored a career-high 37 points in the Eagles’ 97-80 win over Northern Colorado on Saturday and had 35 points in the Eagles’ 95-85 win over North Dakota last Thursday. Third place Eastern Washington closed on first place Montana (16-8, 11-2) and second place Weber State (18-7, 10-2).
Getting defensive – The Sac State women ended a four-game losing streak with home wins over Weber State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday. They held both foes to fewer than 65 points after allowing an average of 101 points during their losing streak.
Senior guard Adella Randle-El averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 steals, 8.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the two home wins, and she set a Sac State record with 10 steals against Weber State.
Sac State (9-14, 6-6) faces a tough test as it tries to climb above .500 in conference play. The Hornets play at second-place Eastern Washington (17-8, 11-2) on Thursday and at third place Idaho (18-7, 10-3) on Saturday.
Aggies women face challenge – The UC Davis women (15-9, 8-3) could move into sole possession of second place in the Big West Conference with a win at Hawaii (15-9, 8-3) on Thursday and close some ground with a win over first place UC Riverside (17-7, 10-0) on Saturday in Davis.
- Men: Thursday vs. Eastern Washington, 7:05 p.m., 1380 AM; Saturday vs. Idaho, 7:05 p.m., 1380 AM
- Women: Thursday at Eastern Washington, 6 p.m.; Saturday at Idaho, 2 p.m.
- Men: Thursday at Cal Poly, 7 p.m., 105.5 FM; Saturday at UC Santa Barbara, 7 p.m., 105.5 FM
- Women: Thursday at Hawaii, 9 p.m., 90.3 FM; Saturday vs. UC Riverside, 7 p.m., 90.3 FM