DAVIS, Calif. – Sacramento State junior guard Takara "TK" Burse scored 17 of her career-high 22 points in the second half and, for the sixth time this season, the Hornets turned a single-possession game in the final two minutes into a win as they outlasted UC Davis 84-78.
While improving to 8-1 this season the Hornets equaled the 1976-77 squad for the best start to a season in program history. The team beat rival UC Davis for the second-consecutive season while dropping the Aggies to 4-8 on the year.
Burse scored her 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including a 4-of-4 mark from three-point range after entering the game with just seven three-pointers made in her career. She was also less than two weeks removed from having arthroscopic surgery to remove a staple from a previous surgery on her knee.
"We were really amped for this game and for me personally I wanted to set my own individual goals and I knew my teammates would help me get there," Burse said. "The surgery was helpful; I felt faster and was able to bend my knee some more. Coming off the surgery I was kind of nervous but with the team behind me I knew we could do this."
Once again the Hornets were able to pull out a game late, winning their fifth consecutive two-possession or less game and improving to 6-0 this season in games decided by six points or less. Sacramento State led by just two points with 15 seconds to play after leading by as many as 14 points during the contest, but quick ball movement after a made Aggie basket found Burse open for a layup and junior Fantasia Hilliard added two free throws to ice the game.
Sacramento State forced 30 Aggie turnovers while committing just 13 of its own, recording a 37-7 scoring edge in points off turnovers. The Hornets had 19 steals, besting their NCAA-leading 16.1 steals per game average, and hit 12 three's, just shy off their NCAA-best average of 14.2 threes per game. The 84 points scored by the Hornets were their fewest in a win this season, but the squad held an opponent under 80 points for just the second time this year.
"I thought it was a great atmosphere and a great women's basketball environment," said Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad after his first Causeway game. "UC Davis had a great game plan and I knew they would be hard to handle for us because they're long and they have some kids that can finish. They were well organized and did some things that were able to disrupt us and we were fortunate to hang on."
In a close first half Sacramento State held a 32-28 lead with four minutes left in the opening period before going on a 12-2 blitz over a two and a half minute stretch to take a game-high 14 point lead at 44-30. UC Davis scored the last four points of the half and extended to an 8-0 run with the first four points of the second half.
The Hornets led for the entire second half but UC Davis brought its deficit within two points on three occasions. Sacramento State held a 78-69 lead with 2:48 remaining before UC Davis got within one possession in the final minute and had two open looks at a 3-pointer that would have tied the score but missed on both shots.
Three missed free throws by the Hornets over the final 58 seconds kept the Aggies alive, but after UC Davis got to within an 80-78 score with 23 seconds left the home team was unable to foul a Hornet and Burse got the open layup that sealed the win.
Hilliard had another superb all-around game with 16 points, six assists, four rebounds, and two steals while junior Shanti Smith (12 points) and freshman Gigi Hascheff (11 points) joined Burse and Hilliard in double-figures. Hascheff added five assists while redshirt freshman Margaret Huntington and senior Alle Moreno led the way with seven rebounds apiece. Junior Sydnee Fipps paced UC Davis with 21 points and 14 rebounds while several key Aggies were limited by foul trouble.
UC Davis shot 51.9%, including 57.7% shooting in the second half, and had a 46-33 rebounding edge but the Hornets had 16 offensive boards and were able to attempt 20 more shots as a result of that and the large turnover discrepancy. Sacramento State earned 10 points in the ScholarShare Causeway Cup to pull within a 37.5-22.5 deficit in the yearlong all-sport competition between the schools.
Saturday's contest concluded non-conference play for the Hornets, who will open Big Sky competition at home next week hosting Montana State at 7 p.m. Thursday and defending conference champion Montana at 2 p.m. Saturday.
"I like our team a lot; I think we have a tremendous amount of potential and I'm really proud of the way my team has found a way to win close games." Harkleroad said. "I wonder how we get in some crazy situations sometimes but that's kind of the nature of the beast when you play our style. We believe in each other and we'll give it our best as we start conference play and see what happens."