FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After Sacramento State led by as many as 22 points in a dominant first half, Northern Arizona was able to get within a four-point deficit in the final minutes but the Hornets finished strong to claim a 99-91 victory on Thursday night in Flagstaff.
Sacramento State (15-5, 7-4 Big Sky) made 12 three-pointers in the first half and led by 18 at the intermission, but Northern Arizona (6-14, 3-8 Big Sky) scored 58 points in the second half and forced the Hornets to make free throws down the stretch to finish off the win.
"To be honest I don't know how we held them off in the second half because we didn't play really smart at times and we defended the rim very poorly," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "You have to give them credit for attacking us and not folding. They had a great run there in the second half but we did some things to start helping ourselves. It always makes me nervous when we have a great first half and we think the ball is going in the hole every time, and when you get a lead it's easy to make bad choices on the offensive end, but we're thankful for the win."
The Hornets had one of their best halves of the season in the first period, hitting 12 three-pointers and forcing 13 turnovers to hold Northern Arizona to just 33 points. Sacramento State hit six three's in the first eight minutes of the game, jumping to a 24-12 lead. The Hornets led 41-28 with five minutes to play before going on a 10-1 run to take a game-high 51-29 lead, holding a 51-33 advantage at the break.
Sacramento State maintained a double-digit lead through most of the second half and led 89-75 with six and a half minutes to play. Northern Arizona then went on a 10-0 run over the next four minutes as Sacramento State missed eight straight shots and the home team got within an 89-85 deficit with two minutes left.
NAU had a chance to get within one possession before Hornet senior Alle Moreno drained a jumper to put her team up by six. The Lumberjacks would get within four points again on two occasions, but both times Sacramento State answered with two made free throws. In all the Hornets shot 8-of-9 from the line in the final 1:03 to hold on for the win.
Moreno led the Hornets with 18 points and was one of five Sacramento State players to score in double-figures. She hit four 3-pointers while freshman Gigi Hascheff hit five and had 17 points, senior Sadie Clements made four for 12 points, and freshman Hallie Gennett (13) and junior Takara Burse (10) also totaled double-digit points. After missing the last two games due to injury, junior Shanti Smith played 20 minutes on Thursday and had eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Northern Arizona finished with 18 turnovers while the Hornets had 11. NAU had a .514-.420 advantage in field goal percentage but made just two 3-pointers while the Hornets hit 18. Sacramento State was outrebounded 47-40 but had 18 offensive boards and 25 second chance points. Junior Erikka Banks led the Lumberjacks with 30 points and 11 rebounds while freshman Brittani Lusain nearly had a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists.
The Hornets will close their season-long four game road trip on Saturday at 1 p,m. Pacific time at Southern Utah.