SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Five Hornets scored in double-figures, including a 21 point and 10 assist double-double from junior Fantasia Hilliard, and Sacramento State rallied from a 16-point first half deficit to hand Saint Mary's its first loss of the season, 94-92, on Thursday in The Nest.
The Gaels had been one of just 23 remaining unbeaten teams in the country as they dropped to 7-1 on the season while Sacramento State improved its Big Sky-best season record to 5-1.
"We had a great environment and a great crowd, especially in the second half," Hornet head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "We did get down early but fought back. We were getting shots up but just weren't knocking them all down, so the pace was where we needed it to be and fortunately we were able to force them into some mistakes and claw our way back into it."
Saint Mary's built a 37-21 lead with six minutes remaining in the first half, but the Hornets ended the half on a 21-9 run to trail by just four points at the break. Sacramento State took its first lead with 11:33 remaining in the contest and led by two in the final minute before Saint Mary's gained possession with 29 seconds left to play. After running the clock down inside 10 seconds, the Gaels looked to find an open shot but were unable to get a try away before the horn sounded.
Hilliard recorded the first Sacramento State double-double of the season and the fourth of her career, shooting 8-of-14 from the field and adding three steals. Freshman Hallie Gennett also scored 21 points, knocking down five 3-pointers, while junior Andrea Chenier also hit five three's and had 19 points. Junior Takara Burse (15 points, 3-of-4 three-point attempts) and senior Alle Moreno (13 points, seven assists) helped lead a full team effort in the win.
" (Saint Mary's) came in confident and already thought they had it, but we played with a chip on our shoulder and stuck with the game plan and made sure we executed," Hilliard said. "The game is always going to be back and forth, so (trailing early) didn't really bother us. We just wanted to make sure that we kept pushing forward."
The Hornets again dominated possession and points off turnovers, attempting 32 more shots than Saint Mary's and outscoring the Gaels 37-10 in points off turnovers. Sacramento State forced 29 giveaways while committing just 10 of their own, and the home team also tallied 24 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points.
Each squad made 35 field goals in the game but 16 of the Hornet made shots were three-pointers in 49 attempts, equaling the Big Sky 3-point attempt record they had already set twice this season. Saint Mary's outshot Sacramento State 60.3% to 38.9% and shot 63.6% on 7-of-11 three-point attempts, but turnovers and the Hornets ability to turn them into points made the difference.
The Gaels reached a double-digit lead at 21-11 after seven and half minutes of play and still led by eight with 20 seconds left in the opening half. A steal and jump shot by Hilliard was followed by a steal and layup by Burse as the Hornets ended the first half down by just four.
Saint Mary's built back to a 10-point advantage four minutes into the second half at 56-46 but the Hornets chipped away to level the score before taking their first lead of the game at 64-63. The game was tied again at 72, but a three by Burse put the Hornets up with 6:54 remaining and, despite the Gaels getting as close as a one-point deficit on three occasions, the home team would lead for the remainder of regulation time.
Two Hornets fouled out of the contest as the team has had five disqualifications over the last two games. Saint Mary's had just one player foul out but it was critical as junior Danielle Mauldin was called for her fifth foul with 2:37 left to play after tallying 24 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks. Senior Jackie Nared added 30 points and 12 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting to lead the Gaels, though she did commit eight turnovers.
Sacramento State returns to The Nest at 2 p.m. Saturday to face San José State and former head coach Jamie Craighead, who less than three months ago left the Hornets to join the Spartans.