WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TOPS MONTANA STATE 107-95 IN BIG SKY OPENER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento State scored 57 points in the second half and broke the program record for total points in a regulation game in a 107-95 victory over Montana State on Thursday night to open Big Sky play.
The Hornets (9-1, 1-0 BSC) won their seventh consecutive game and surpassed the previous non-overtime game program scoring record of 106 set in 2010. The squad finished just four points shy of the overall record of 111 points while outscoring Montana State (5-5, 0-1 BSC) 57-44 in a dominant second half.
The team's 9-1 record is now the best start to a season in program history, while it's current seven-game winning streak ties the 2009-10 squad for the longest winning streak in program history.
"We didn't really make any adjustments but we just hit a few more shots and played a little harder," said Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad of his team's second-half blitz after trailing by a point at halftime. "I think the pace played into our favor and our energy level improved. Montana State is a good basketball team and they were hard to compete against, but we were able to keep them going fast and the momentum came back to us."
Sacramento State shot a season-high 43.0% from the field, including 48.6% shooting in the second half. The squad made 14 three-pointers and had 16 steals, keeping pace with its NCAA-leading averages in both of those categories, and was outrebounded by just one board with 24 of its 48 rebounds on the offensive glass. Montana State shot 53.8% in the first half but dropped to 47.2% in the second half and committed 24 turnovers while forcing just 15 Hornet giveaways.
The Bobcats were in control for most of the first half as the Hornets led for only 11 seconds through the opening 20 minutes. The visitors had a game-high 10 point lead at 31-21 midway through the opening period, but Sacramento State pulled even at 44-44 with four minutes to play and trailed just 51-50 at halftime.
The Hornets led for all but 38 seconds in the second period as a junior Fantasia Hilliard layup 1:46 into the second stanza gave the home team a lead it would not rescind. The Bobcats got as close as a four point deficit with seven minutes remaining, but an ensuing 13-2 Hornet run put the game out of reach. Sacramento State led by 17 with less than a minute to play before settling for the 12-point win.
The bulk of the Hornet scoring came from just three players led by Hilliard, who finished with a season-high 26 points, 20 of which came in the second half, and equaled her career high of 12 assists for her third double-double of the season. Junior Shanti Smith had a career-high 24 points to go with six rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting, while senior Alle Moreno hit four 3-pointers and totaled 24 points, six assists, and five rebounds.
"I just ran hard and I guess I was in the right spots at the right times tonight," said Smith of her career-best night. "We've had a lot of players that have really stepped up in different games and it feels great to help out my teammates. We have a lot of players that didn't play a whole lot last year and I think this year everyone took it upon themselves to get confident and get better at what they are good at and so far it has really worked out."
With the win Sacramento State improved to 5-1 this season when trailing at halftime and 7-1 when shooting a lower field goal percentage than its opponent. Moreno became just the 10th player in Big Sky history to make 200 career 3-points, while as a team the Hornets have made at least 11 three-pointers in every game this season.
The Hornets will host defending Big Sky champion Montana at 2 p.m. Saturday in The Nest. The Griz improved to 7-3 overall this season with an 87-67 win in their Big Sky opener Thursday at Northern Arizona.