SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Back in the Nest for the first time since last January, the Sacramento State women's basketball team came out strong early against Montana State, taking a quick lead and never giving it back en route to a dominant 88-77 win over the Bobcats.
Sacramento State (4-18, 2-9) entered play Thursday coming off a tough road loss, but showed no lingering effects as they opened up with a 24-points first quarter.
Much of the early scoring was powered by sophomore point guard Tiara Scott, who was 3-for-4 from three for 12 points in the first quarter. She continued to shoot well all night, ending the game with a season-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5-for-8 from three. She also made two free throws while pulling in three rebounds and tallying two steals.
The Hornets continued to pile on, outscoring Montana State (12-10, 7-5) in both the second and third quarters. The Hornets led by nine at half time and by as much as 22 late in the third quarter. They eased off a little bit in the game's final period, eventually taking the 11-point victory.
Friend scored 31 in the win, ending her night just shy of the Hornets women's basketball record for points in a conference game (34, Briana Burgos at Montana State, 2/6/2016). Friend was 11-of-20 for the night, including 3-of-9 from three. She was also a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
Additionally, the sophomore guard pulled in a team-leading nine rebounds while totaling four steals.
Johnson, who made her first start since Jan. 27 against Portland State, scored 23 points on an efficient 8-of 13 (62%), including four-for-8 from three. She also had four assists and five steals, giving her 307 career steals and pulling her within one of the Sacramento State women's basketball program leader for career steals, Fantasia Hillard (308).
Combined, Johnson and Friend totaled 54 points, matching the most by a duo in a conference game in program history. Johnson was also involved the last time, as she and former Hornet Brianna Burgos combined for 54 points on Feb. 6, 2016, also against Montana State.
As a team, Sacramento State had their best shooting night of the season, shooting 52.5% from the floor overall, including 41.9% from beyond the arc. They continued to make their free throws, going 11-for-14, and outrebounded Montana State 32-27.
Defensively, Sacramento State played on of their best games of the year, limiting the Bobcats to just 55 shots overall. The Hornets also had four blocks and 16 steals compared to Montana State's two and six.
For one of the first times this season, Sacramento State fully embraced the fast-paced, up-and-down style of play that the program has become known for. Thursday night's game featured nearly a constant full court press and more quick shots than in previous games. Though the team's 16 steals weren't their most this season, they were some of the most aggressive takeaways of the year.
Montana State's Hannah Caudill led the way for the Bobcats, scoring 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. As a team, Montana State shot 50.9%, though committed 24 turnovers, resulting in 33 Sacramento State points.
With the win, the Hornets climb to 4-18 overall and 2-9 in Big Sky Conference play. They also pull into a tie with Southern Utah for the 10th spot in the conference after Utah State did not play tonight. Full Big Sky Conference standings are available here.
Sacramento State is back in action this weekend as they host Montana on Saturday in the Nest at 2:05 p.m. PT.