MORE BIG SKY ACTION FOR WOMEN'S BASKETBALL THIS WEEK HOSTING 2-0 WEBER STATE
For the first time in three seasons, Sacramento State opened up Big Sky Conference play with a victory in the first weekend. After an opening, 76-54, loss to defending champion Northern Arizona, the Hornets regrouped for a 54-47 win over conference-newcomer Northern Colorado.
In the first game, the Hornets were unable to control the Lumberjacks in the paint last Thursday. First team all-Big Sky forward Alyssa Wahl scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and was nearly unstoppable in the post. The Hornets were outscored 32-10 in the paint and were outrebounded 46-28.
But Sacramento State had a different defensive approach against Northern Colorado on Saturday. Defensive pressure applied at midcourt by the Hornet backcourt, and senior Ashley Storms tracking Bears’ leading scorer Heather Barbour across the floor allowed Sacramento State to build a first-half lead. Northern Colorado was held to just 15 first-half points, before finishing the game shooting just 27.9 percent from the floor.
It was the lowest point total Sacramento State has held an opponent to this season and the second time this year the Hornets have held a team under 50 points.
THEY BOTH FLY
Their days of being Eagles are over, but sophomores Jourdan Willard and Atty Boyer have adjusted to the Hornets Nest quite comfortably. Both graduates of perennial high school basketball power El Camino, the duo was a large part of Sacramento State’s success against Northern Colorado.
Willard got her first action in a Hornet uniform last weekend and led the team in points (17) and rebounds (13) in those games. Willard made her largest impact against Northern Colorado, scoring 10 points, shagging nine rebounds, and dishing out three assists. The Sacramento native also had three blocks, the most of any Hornet this year.
For her part, Boyer was the team’s leading scorer with 12 points against the Bears, while also adding eight rebounds and two assists.
Senior Ashley Storms is stepping up her game and providing some suffocating defense recently. The Vancouver, Wash., native walked onto the team and redshirted during the 2004-05 season, before earning a scholarship and some playing time a year ago.
Now in her third and final year with the program, Storms has become head coach Dan Muscatell’s go-to defensive answer. On New Year’s Eve against 14th-ranked Louisville, Storms held the Cardinals' leading scorer to eight points in 24 minutes. A huge feat considering Angel McCoughtry entered the game averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Against Northern Colorado, Storms was assigned to swingman Heather Barbour, who entered the game averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Storms held Barbour scoreless in the first half, and the Bear’s leading scorer finished the game with just seven points.
FRESHMEN FEET FORWARD
Sacramento State entered this season with only two returning true post players, sophomores Becca Reams and Atty Boyer. That left the position open for the Hornet freshman class to provide added depth.
Last Thursday against Northern Arizona, it was the second half play of Erika Edwards and Kelly Vega that was encouraging for Muscatell. Edwards scored a season-high 14 points, shooting a career best 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from the floor. She knocked down two outside shots and also had two assists.It was the third time this season Edwards has reached double figures.
Vega also had a career night against the Lumberjacks. Entering the second half and aggressively attacking in the post, the Beaverton, Ore., native scored a season-best seven points. Her ability to establish position on the block led to six trips to the charity stripe for Vega – all in the final 20 minutes. Vega knocked down five free throws and also found time to add an assist.
DON'T CALL HER A SHOOTER
For the last three seasons, senior guard Kim Sheehy has gotten used to the opponents’ bench yelling “shooter” when the ball is in her hands. After all, Sheehy is a two-time all-conference selection and was named the co-Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after the 2004-05 season. She currently leads the team averaging 10.1 points per game and has knocked down a team-best 31 three-pointers.
But her long-distance accuracy isn’t the only part of her game. The shooting guard has a knack for finding the open man. In her last seven games, Sheehy has led the team in assists during five of those contests. She is also averaging 5.9 assists per game during that time frame and currently ranks seventh in the Big Sky, averaging 3.8 per game overall.
All three of Sacramento State’s victories this season have come inside the Nest, and that does not bode well for a team that begins a five-game road trip this Saturday. After hosting Weber State on Wednesday, the team will not play a home game for three weeks. Sacramento State begins its adventure in Flagstaff on Saturday, Jan. 13 and during its bye week of conference play, will then travel to Kansas (Jan. 17).
League play will resume a week later with a five-day trip north, traveling to Portland State (Jan. 25) and Eastern Washington (Jan. 28). The team returns quickly for the first day of classes, before once again hitting the road for a Jan. 31 contest at Northern Colorado. When the team finally settles back in Sacramento, there will be a three-game homestand awaiting them, beginning on Saturday, Feb. 3 against Idaho State.
The Wildcats enter the Nest with an undefeated league record of 2-0, opening Big Sky play in Ogden, Utah with victories over Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona. Chelsey Warburton led Weber State last week, averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 assists, and dropping a total of eight three pointers. Laura Porter made her way to the free throw line 15 times, scoring a total of 35 points and shooting 66.7 percent from the floor. Sara Tuomi continues to lead Weber State overall, averaging 16.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The new Big Sky scheduling allows a quick rematch for the Lumberjacks and Hornets. After the defending champs opened conference play with a 76-54 victory over Sacramento State, they traveled to Utah and suffered a 79-64 loss to Weber State.
In that game, Northern Arizona shot 53.3 percent from the floor and had four players, led by Wahl, reach double figures, but it was Weber State's guard tandem of Chelsey Warburton and Laura Porter that did the damage. Combining for 42 points, Warburton sank five three-pointers and Porter was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Senior guard Kim Sheehy's fifth three-pointer at Louisville elevated her to second all-time in the Hornets' record book...she now has 146 career treys, trailing Michelle St. Clair (175)...senior point guard Stephanie Cherry has 21 steals this season (140 career) and needs just three more to break in the program's top 10...Atty Boyer's 23-point performance against 19th-ranked UCLA was the most any Hornet has scored since Ashley Cadotte scored 23 against Montana State on Feb. 18, 2006...Sacramento State did not shoot a single free throw in its game against the UC Davis, it was the first time in the Hornets' Division I program history they had not been called to the foul line at least once...sophomore Becca Reams broke two career highs at Pacific, scoring 20 points and adding seven rebounds...her 7-of-10 shooting performance was the best of any Hornet this year...sophomore Jourdan Willard's three blocks against Northern Colorado were the most of any player this year as well.
HEAD COACH DAN MUSCATELL
Dan Muscatell became the sixth Sacramento State women's basketball head coach in the program's 40-year history in March of 2003, after spending four seasons as an assistant at Oregon (1999-03). He earned his first win with the Hornets on Jan. 14, 2004, with a 56-50 win at Portland State.
Muscatell (21-75) posted an 9-17 record last season, the team's best mark since the 1995-96 season. During the 2004-05 season, Muscatell led the team to the Big Sky postseason tournament for just the second time since the Hornets joined the Big Sky in 1996.
While at Oregon, Muscatell was involved in all aspects of the program, including the coordination of recruiting efforts and the coaching of offense and defense. He also worked with both the perimeter and post players.
While at Oregon, the Everett, Wash., native was responsible for bringing in one of the nation's top recruiting classes in 2001, a six-member class that was ranked 17th in the nation by All-Star Girls Report. Muscatell also coached or recruited current and former WNBA players Andrea Bills, Edneisha Curry, Brandi Davis, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Jenny Mowe, Angelina Wolvert and Shaquala Williams.
During his four years at Oregon, the Ducks were ranked in the top 25 during three of those seasons, including two top-10 finishes in 2000 and 2001. The program also combined to post a record of 74-49 while capturing two NCAA Tournament berths (2000 and 2001), a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title (2002) and a Pac-10 crown (2000).