Hornets face final road hurdle

Andrew Brown

The Sacramento State men’s basketball team is back on the road for the final time in the regular season, facing two tough Big Sky Conference opponents in the University of Northern Colorado Bears and the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

The first contest for Sac State (11-14, 4-10 in the Big Sky) will be against Northern Colorado (8-18, 5-9 Big Sky) on Feb. 25 at the Bank of Colorado Arena in Greeley, Colorado at 6:00 p.m. The Bears sit just ahead of the Hornets in the Big Sky Conference, at ninth place.

Northern Colorado is led by junior guard Anthony Johnson and his 15.1 points per game this season. Johnson had a career game two weeks ago against Eastern Washington University, scoring 37 points in a 97-80 loss.

Sac State last played Northern Colorado in February 2015 at the Nest; the Hornets won that game, 66-59.

Northern Colorado’s x-factor: Junior guard Jordan Wilson will be a major factor for Sac State to try and contain. Wilson can shoot (40 percent 3pt FG) and pass (3 assists per game), which could cause major matchup problems for the Hornets at the top of the key. The Hornets have had a tendency all season to get out to slow starts, so Wilson will be looking to get out to a fast start offensively.

Sac State’s x-factor: Junior forward Nick Hornsby will play a major role in determining the Hornets’ chances in this game. Hornsby has a knack for coming up big on the defensive side of the ball (Hornsby had three steals in a 68-65 win against the Idaho University Vandals). The limited scoring threats of Northern Colorado can be completely erased, if the Hornets show up big defensively.

The final game of the road trip will be against North Dakota (13-12, 8-6 Big Sky) on Feb. 27 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota at noon. The Fighting Hawks sit sixth in the Big Sky Conference but are only a game and a half back of third place.

North Dakota is led by junior guard Quinton Hooker and his 18.5 points per game this season. Hooker had a triple double earlier in February, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 76-60 win against the Idaho State University Bengals.

Sac State last played North Dakota in February 2015 at the Nest. The Hornets won that game 74-66.

North Dakota’s x-factor: Sophomore forward Drick Bernstine pounds the glass, grabbing nearly nine rebounds a game. Hooker will put up shots, but if Bernstine can clean up the misses, Sac State might be in for a long night.

Sac State’s x-factor: Junior center Eric Stuteville is tied for the lead in the Big Sky Conference with 47 blocks. If Stuteville can be a defensive force against Hooker, the Hornets stand a great chance of getting an upset win.

Both games will be available to stream for free via watchbigsky.com. Both games will also be live-tweeted by The State Hornet sports section via @sh_sports. Find recaps from the games on Twitter, @TheStateHornet, and online, at statehornet.com.