WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TROUNCES EWU, 71-61, IN FIRST ROUND OF BIG SKY TOURNAMENT
POCATELLO, Idaho - The No. 6 seed Sacramento State women's basketball team won the first Big Sky Tournament game in school history with a 71-61 upset of No. 3 seed Eastern Washington in the quarterfinals on Thursday night at Idaho State's Reed Gym.
Fantasia Hilliard, the league's Most Outstanding Freshman, had 17 points, five assists
and five rebounds in the Hornets' 10-point win over Eastern Washington.
The Hornets (13-17) advanced to the Big Sky Tournament four times before but never made it out of the first round. That changed on Thursday as Sacramento State never trailed in winning its fifth consecutive game after winning four straight to close out the regular season. Eastern Washington (16-14) swept the Hornets in two games during the regular season but lost its fifth straight on Thursday after dropping four in a row heading into the tournament.
“I thought we played good enough to win the game today, but we’re going to have to play better tomorrow," head coach Jamie Craighead said. "I’m really proud of my kids. I thought we executed really well down the stretch. Defensively we made some adjustments from the first two times we played (Eastern Washington) and I felt like those changes worked. They talk about peaking at the right time and I think our team is. They are confident and believe they can beat any team in the conference”
Craighead's squad will face No. 1 seed and host Idaho State in the semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament at 6:30 p.m. PT tomorrow. Live stats and live video feed links are available on the women's basketball schedule link to the left.
Sacramento State never trailed in the game after jumping out to a red-hot start. The Hornets buried four three-pointers in the first 2:05 of the game to take a 12-2 lead. The Eagles whittled the lead down to three before the Hornets went into halftime up by four, 32-28. Senior Emily Christensen had a team-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field at the break.
The Hornets sprinted out of the locker room in similar fashion to the first half. Sacramento State quickly pushed its lead back to 12 with 17:03 left in the game after a 14-4 run to open the second half that featured seven points from Alle Moreno. But the Eagles once again rallied, with a 16-6 run over the next 8:17 to force the first tie in the game, 48-48, with 8:46 left.
It was tied again at 50 with 7:39 on the clock when the Hornets put away the game. Moreno fueled another run, this time scoring five points in an 11-1 spurt over 4:15, to give Sacramento State a 61-51 lead with 3:24 remaining. The Hornets went 6-of-8 at the free throw line down the stretch and their lead was never cut below eight points until winning by 10.
Sacramento State had four starters score in double figures. Fantasia Hilliard and Moreno each scored a team-high 17 points while Christensen finished with 15. Kylie Kuhns had her 21st double-double of the season with 12 points and a team-best 11 rebounds.
Eastern Washington's Brianne Ryan, the Big Sky Conference MVP, led her team with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Chene Cooper also had a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists.
Sacramento State shot 46.6 percent overall on 27-of-58 shooting, including 6-of-16 from three-point range. The Hornets snagged 37 rebounds, committed 27 turnovers and had 14 assists. They went 11-of-17 at the free throw line.
Eastern Washington shot 32.5 percent from the field on 25-of-77 shooting, with 3-of-16 coming from beyond the arc. The Eagles grabbed 50 rebounds, were pressured into 27 turnovers and had 15 assists. They went 8-of-9 at the free throw line.