FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Behind Kylie Kuhns' 48th career double-double, the Sacramento State women's basketball team secured a spot in the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 78-68 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday night at the Walkup Skydome.
The Hornets' trip to the Big Sky Tournament at the end of the regular season (March 14-16) will be the program's sixth overall and third in four seasons under head coach Jamie Craighead. Last year, Sacramento State defeated Eastern Washington, 71-61, in the quarterfinals for the program's first ever Big Sky Tournament victory.
Montana, Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington and the Hornets have all booked their trip to the Big Sky Tournament, while three more spots are still up for grabs. After the additions of Southern Utah and North Dakota to the Big Sky this season, the conference tournament was expanded from six teams to seven teams, with the No. 1 seed hosting and earning a first-round bye. Seeds are not locked in yet, and the Hornets could still win the Big Sky regular season title and host with four games left on the schedule.
The Hornets (15-10, 10-6 Big Sky) led by as much as 24 points in the second half on Saturday, but Northern Arizona (7-18, 6-10) cut it to single digits at 73-64 with 1:52 remaining. The Hornets held on by making seven of their last nine free throw attempts, including 3-of-4 in the final minute.
The first and only tie score in the game was at 6-6 with 15:27 left in the first half, but over the next 9:24 Sacramento State went on a 24-7 to break the game wide open. The Hornets led by 16 points at halftime and sprinted out of the break on a 10-2 run to make it a 51-27 game with 16:00 remaining. Northern Arizona whittled away at the big lead, but could never get closer than nine points.
Fantasia Hilliard finished with a team-high 16 points. The sophomore leads the team in scoring in Big Sky contests, averaging 14.1 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the field.
Kuhns scored 14 points to go with 13 rebounds for her 48th career double-double and 12th this season. Kuhns is now just 17 boards away from breaking the Big Sky Conference record for career rebounds.
Alle Moreno chipped in 15 points to go with a team-best five assists while Natasha Torgerson also scored in double figures, with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting off the bench. Megan Kritscher, who entered the game needing just six blocks to become the Big Sky's single-season leader in rejections, had one against Northern Arizona.
The Lumberjacks were paced by Erikka Banks' career-night. Banks scored 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting while going 11-of-14 at the free throw line. She also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, all while coming off the bench and playing just 28 minutes.
After the Hornets' win on Saturday, Sacramento State has still not lost back-to-back games since a road trip to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois in early December. The Hornets were defeated last Saturday at home by Northern Colorado but responded with a win on Saturday night at Northern Arizona.
Sacramento State shot 44.4 percent overall on 28-of-63 shooting, including 7-of-23 from 3-point range. The Hornets snagged 47 rebounds, committed 20 turnovers and tallied 17 assists. They went 15-of-21 at the free throw line.
Northern Arizona shot 31.2 percent from the field on 24-of-77 shooting, with 4-of-16 coming from beyond the arc. The Lumberjacks grabbed 49 rebounds and were pressured into 15 turnovers with 10 assists. They went 16-of-20 at the free throw line.
The Hornets had just one game this weekend but get back to the double dips next week with road games at Weber State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday. Sacramento State closes out the regular season at home on March 7 and 9 against the Montana schools.