SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Down by as many as 22 points in the contest, Sacramento State came all the way back to level the score in the final minute of play but was unable to overtake Eastern Washington as the Eagles finished a 79-73 win.
"Its very hard to come back from a deficit like that," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "Eastern Washington did a good job knocking some shots down from deep early and we did a poor job finding shooters. I was proud of our effort for the way we fought back but we just couldn't finish."
Sacramento State (15-7, 7-6 Big Sky) erased the entirety of its early deficit to draw even at 72-72 at the 1:23 mark of the second half, the first tie in the game since it was 2-2. Eastern Washington (12-10, 8-5 Big Sky) was then able to draw fouls on its final four possessions of the contest and sunk 7-of-8 free throw attempts while the Hornets missed four shots and a free throw over the final 40 seconds and the visitors ended the contest with a 7-1 run.
With four steals in the game Hornet senior guard Alle Moreno broke the program record for career steals, surpassing the previous high mark of 209 set 2009-13 by Kylie Kuhns. Moreno is also the program's all-time leader in 3-pointers made and attempted.
Thursday's contest was the first game this season in which the Hornets never held a lead. Sacramento State shot 23.1% in the first half and finished at 32.4% while Eastern Washington shot 52.0% to become the sixth consecutive team to shoot better than 50% against the Hornets. The Eagles shot 7-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half but did not make a long ball in the second half while the Hornets finished 10-of-43 from beyond the arc.
Eastern Washington completely dominated the first 17 minutes of the contest. The Eagles made their first five shots of the game, including three 3-pointers, to jump to a quick 15-5 lead. The visitors led 25-18 with 11 minutes left in the half and then went on a 17-2 run over the next eight minutes to take a game-high 42-20 advantage. Sacramento State scored the last eight points of the half, however, to trail 42-28 at halftime.
The Hornets extended to a 13-0 spurt after scoring the first five points of the second half to get within a 42-33 margin. Sacramento State got within one point after a Shanti Smith 3-pointer with 9:41 to play but the Eagles extended back to a two-possession lead into the final three minutes of the contest before the Hornets used a 9-2 run to draw even.
Sacramento State had 18 offensive rebounds and attempted 21 more shots than Eastern Washington but made three fewer field goals and held just a 16-14 edge in second chance points. The Hornets forced 24 turnovers, including 14 in the second half, while committing just 15 of their own. The Eagles had a 43-38 overall edge in rebounding and had seven blocks.
Freshman Hallie Gennett led the Hornets with 16 points, hitting four 3-pointers, with freshman Gigi Hascheff scoring 13 and Smith finishing with 11. Eagle junior Lexi Nelson made four three's and had a game high 23 points while senior Aubrey Ashenfelter nearly had a pseudo triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and nine turnovers.
The Hornets return to The Nest to host Portland State at a special 1 p.m. start time on Saturday. The Vikings, who topped Sacramento State 83-80 in Portland on Jan. 16, dropped to 6-16 overall and 4-9 in the Big Sky with an 84-61 loss Thursday at Northern Arizona, a game in which PSU trailed by as many as 35 points.