SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's basketball team (3-10, 1-1) came out firing Thursday night in their home conference opener against the Idaho Vandals (5-9, 1-2), going up 12-0 early. They never looked backed, leading for all 40 minutes en route to a 79-64 win over Idaho.
The Hornets opened Thursday night's game with a 12-0 run, keeping Idaho off the board for over three minutes before their first basket at the 6:41 mark in the first quarter. That nine point lead was as close as Idaho would make it until midway through the fourth quarter.
Sacramento pushed their lead, going up 28-9 after one quarter of play. With a strong second quarter, the Hornets went into the half up 24, leading the Vandals 45-21.
Idaho came out of the break strong, however, putting up 27 points in the third quarter and cutting the Hornets lead down to 16. They continued to close the gap, climbing to within eight points halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Hornets slammed the door, outscoring Idaho 12-4 in the game's final five minutes to preserve the 79-64 victory.
"We did a great job of playing within ourselves," said head coach Bunky Harkleroad. "The right people took the right shots at the right time and we hit them."
Hannah Friend led the way for the Hornets, putting up 29 points on 12-for-21 (57.1%) shooting. She finished the night just one point shy of her third 30-point performance of the season. She was perfect in her only two free-throw attempts and also pulled in four rebounds. Additionally, Friend recorded a career-high three blocks in the effort while playing a career-high 38 minutes
The sophomore played through a bloody nose, as well, after taking a shoulder to her nose in the middle of the third quarter. She missed just a minute, returning to the court and scoring 11 points in the quarter.
With 29 points, Friend is now averaging 19.4 points a game, the most by far among Big Sky Conference sophomores. In her last three games, the San Clemente native is averaging 23 points and six rebounds.
Backing up Friend was sophomore Kennedy Nicholas, who recorded her third double-double of the season. The 6-3 forward put up 12 points and pulled down 11 boards in a career-high 38 minutes. Over her last five games, Nicholas has all three of her double-doubles while averaging 9.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Raegen Rohn put forth a great effort for the Hornets, as well, taking advantage of her first start of the 2017-18 season. Rohn played a career-high 37 minutes while scoring 11 points. She took just six shots, but made four of them - including three three-pointers. She also dished out three assists.
"We've been putting in a lot of work in practice and I just wanted to play my role and give everything I could to the team tonight," Rohn said after the game. "It was great to get back in the Nest. We had a lot of confidence coming into this game and we're going to build on that and come back strong Saturday."
Also scoring in double-digits was point guard Tiara Scott with 10 points. The sophomore was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and went 4-of-6 at the line.
Overall, Sacramento State shot a season-best 50.9% (28-55) from the floor, including a season-best 9-for-20 (45.0%) from three. Previously, the Hornets shot an even 50% (36-72) against Antelope Valley and 42.3% (11-26) versus UC Riverside.
The Hornets out-rebounded Idaho 38-31 and took advantage of Idaho mistakes, outscoring the Vandals 23-13 off of turnovers.
Idaho shot 37.3% (22-59) overall while going 11-for-39 from beyond the arc. The Vandals were led by defending Big Sky Player of the Week Mikayla Ferenz. After starting the first half 2-for-9 (0-5 from three), the junior finished 11-for-18, including 5-11 from three, and totaled 33 points and six rebounds.
"Idaho does shoot the ball tremendously well. Ferenz, she's special. You saw that with her second-half performance," Harkleroad said of the Vandals' star junior. "You can't get comfortable against them with the way they shoot the ball and the way she can score."
With the win, Sacramento State pulls to 1-1 in the Big Sky Conference while improving to 3-10 overall. After an incredibly tough non-conference schedule, the women's basketball team is primed for a strong conference showing.
"I want our team to know that we are more than capable of being a very good basketball team. We've played such brutal schedule and when you don't experience the success immediately, it can be easy to hang your head," added Harkleroad. "I think the best thing about tonight is building off it and getting so momentum as we open Big Sky play."
They'll look to make it three straight home wins on Saturday, Jan. 6 when they welcome the Eastern Washington University Eagles to the Nest. Tip is scheduled for 2:05 pm and doors open for fans at 1.