SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Junior guard Kennedy Nicholas dominated under the net Saturday afternoon, scoring 22 points and recording a career-best 20 rebounds as the Hornets defeated the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, 77-76, in the Nest.
The win is Sacramento State's second straight and moves them to 6-8 overall and 2-4 in the Big Sky. With the loss, Southern Utah falls to 5-11 overall and 2-5 in league.
In an exciting back-and-forth game, Nicholas stole the spotlight, scoring 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting while collecting a career-high 20 rebounds, including 10 off the offensive glass.
What a finish! Five lead changes in the final two minutes, but @SacStateWBB comes out on top, 77-76, over Southern Utah. Nicholas with a team-high 22 pts, 20 rebounds. #StingersUp #Team54 pic.twitter.com/o1qd1fnTAs— Sacramento State Women's Basketball (@SacStateWBB) January 20, 2019
Nicholas got off to a slow start Saturday, making just two of her first seven shots before going 4-for-4 in the second quarter and 4-for-6 in the second half. The 22-point, 20-rebound performance is her seventh double-double of the season while her 20 rebounds are the most by a Hornet since Margaret Huntington pulled in 21 in December of 2016.
To round out her performance, Nicholas added two assists, three blocks, and two steals. With three more blocks on Saturday, Nicholas now has 76 for her career, fifth most in Hornets program history. She has a ways to go to catch number four, Kylie Kuhns, who collected 126 career blocks from 2009-13.
Saturday's back-and forth affair featured 11 total lead changes, including five in the final 2:17 of game time. After a Nicholas steal with 2:26 remaining in the game, a Hannah Friend layup gave Sacramento State a 73-72 lead, their first lead since midway through the third quarter.
Southern Utah's point guard, Rebecca Cardenas, countered with a layup of her own almost immediately, putting the visiting Thunderbirds back on top by one. From there, it turned out to be Friend and Cardenas trading baskets until the game went final.
Friend put the Hornets back on top, 75-74, with her sixth bucket of the night, but Cardenas stole Milee Enger's inbound pass and laid one in on the breakaway to give the Thunderbirds the 76-75 lead with just 17 seconds left to play.
After a Hornets timeout, Sacramento State drew up another inbound play and this time, Enger redeemed herself, floating a perfect pass over the defense to a breaking Friend under the basket for the easy layup. Friend's seventh bucket of the afternoon proved the difference as she put the Hornets back on top, 77-76, for good.
Celebrating her birthday on Saturday, Friend scored 17 total points on 17-for-14 shooting. She scored 12 points in the fourth quarter alone and was responsible for Sacramento State's final eight points, going 2-for-3 from the free throw line and 3-for-4 from the floor in the game's final 2:38.
Fittingly, it was Nicholas and Friend who sealed the victory Saturday. After Southern Utah missed their potential game-winner, the ball deflected off Hornets hands out of bounds with two seconds remaining. On the subsequent inbound play, Nicholas tipped the pass out of the reach of the Thunderbirds center and Friend corralled the loose ball as time expired.
As a team, 10 of Sacramento State's 12 player slogged double-digit minutes on Saturday, with nine of 12 scoring points and all 12 contributing to the overall stat line.
Summer Menke finished with 10 points and three rebounds while going 2-for-5 from beyond the arc. Gabi Bade, who finished with seven points, hit a crucial three-ball early in the fourth quarter to break a 9-0 Southern Utah run.
In total, the Hornets led for just 6:16 of game time while the Thunderbirds were on top for 27:22. Sacramento State never led by more than three (10-7, 5:43 1Q), and never by more than one in the second half, but managed to make the important shots late.
Sacramento State heads out on the road next as they travel to both Idaho and Eastern Washington next weekend. First up is a Thursday evening matchup with the Idaho Vandals. Tip off for Thursday's game is scheduled for 6:05 pm PT.
For more details on all upcoming Sacramento State women's basketball games, visit the 2018-19 schedule online at HornetSports.com.