WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COMES BACK FROM 18 DOWN TO KNOCK OFF NORTHERN COLORADO, TAKE SOLE POSSESSION OF SECOND PLACE
GREELEY, Colo. - The Sacramento State women's basketball team came back from a deficit that grew as large as 18 points in the first half to defeat the Northern Colorado Bears 93-89, taking over sole possession of second place in the Big Sky Conference, and clinching a berth in the Big Sky Tournament.
With the victory, the Hornets improve to 14-13 overall, 9-5 in the Big Sky, and have now won 10 of their last 11 games. The Bears fell to 13-15, 5-9 in the Big Sky. With Eastern Washington losing at Idaho State tonight, the Hornets are a game back in the loss column to the Eagles and could share the regular season title with an Eastern Washington loss to Portland State at home next weekend, and a pair of victories over Idaho State and Weber State.
Sacramento State trailed 46-28 with 1:25 remaining in the first half, and the Bears held a 46-30 lead at intermission. Northern Colorado led for the majority of the second half as well, commanding a 65-51 lead with 12:26 to go before the Hornets came storming back. Senior Erika Edwards (Redmond, Wash.) knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to 11 points, and freshman Kylie Kuhns (Salem, Ore.) converted a layup to cut the deficit to 65-56.
After Whitley Cox buried a three-pointer to push the lead back to 12, junior Emily Christensen (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) scored five straight points, connecting on a three-pointer and a fastbreak layup to cut the lead to 68-61. After the Bears' Lara Merritt made 1-of-2 at the line to push the lead back to 69-61, junior Tika Koshiyama-Diaz (San Jose, Calif.) and senior Ashley Garcia (Antioch, Calif.) made a pair of fast break layups, sandwiched between a Cox layup, to cut the lead to 71-65 with 7:43 remaining. Edwards would then connect on a rare four-point play, pulling the Hornets to within two points at 71-69. The rare four point possession capped a 16-4 run by the Hornets.
Kaisha Brown added three more points to the Northern Colorado lead with 6:45 to play on a trifecta, making the lead five points at 74-69, before the Hornets would make a surge to tie it. Freshman Mallorie Franco (Fortuna, Calif.) converted a pair of free throws, and senior Charday Hunt (Portland, Ore.) grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up for two points, cutting the lead to 74-73. After Cox made a pair of free throws, Koshiyama-Diaz buried a deep three-pointer to tie the score at 76-76 with 4:45 to play.
The Bears fought back to score four straight points, with Cox's two free throws pushing the lead back to 80-76 in favor of homestanding Northern Colorado. But Edwards would again knock down a clutch three-pointer to cut the lead to one, 80-79, with 3:32 to play. After Cox again knocked down two free throws, Christensen was able to knock down 1-of-2 at the stripe to keep the lead at two points, 82-80, with 2:49 to go.
After Northern Colorado's Courtney Stoermer knocked down two free throws, Hunt did the same for the Hornets, maintaining the Bears slim 84-82 lead. The Hornets then took the lead for the first time in the game when Edwards buried her fifth three-pointer of the contest, putting Sacramento State in front 85-84 with 1:16 remaining. After a Northern Colorado turnover, Christensen knocked down a three of her own to push the Hornet advantage to 88-84 with :40 seconds remaining.
The Hornets would then ice the game at the foul line, making 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch, including a crucial pair by Garcia with 14.3 seconds remaining, to give the Hornets the victory and clinch their spot into the postseason tournament.
After being outscored in the first half 46-30, Sacramento State scored 63 second half points, outscoring the Bears by a total of 63-43 over the final 20 minutes. After making just 6-of-25 from the field in the first half (24.0 percent), the Hornets were 18-of-32 from the field (56.3 percent) and 9-of-11 from three-point range (81.8) in the second half to take home the victory. For the contest, Sacramento State was a season-high 34-of-42 from the foul line, knocking down 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) in the second half.
Christensen tallied a career-high 26 points to lead five players in double figures for the Hornets. The junior was 8-of-21 from the field, 3-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc and 7-of-12 from the charity stripe. Edwards finished with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the three-point arc and a 1-for-1 performance from the foul line, while grabbing seven rebounds. Koshiyama-Diaz added 16 points of her own, while dishing out eight assists despite tweeking her ankle early in the first half. Kuhns and Hunt finished with 10 points apiece, with Hunt pulling down a game-high eight rebounds.
The Bears were led by Cox who scored 31 points, with Lauren Oosdyke (11) and Courtney Stoermer (10) joining her in double figures.
Sacramento State closes out the regular season with road contests at Idaho State (3/5) and Weber State (3/6).