SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's basketball team officially opens the 2013 season hosting Cal State Northridge on Friday at 5 p.m in The Nest before welcoming San Diego State at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Friday's game will begin a season-opening double header with the Hornet men's basketball team, which will host UC Santa Cruz at 7:30. The contest will also be a Green Army game as the first 50 students in Green Army gear will get free pizza from Pete's Restaurant and Brewery.
Fans unable to make Friday or Sunday's games can watch both live for free on WatchBigSky.com. Both games will also have a live radio broadcast on HornetSports.com/Radio. Andrew Tomsky will handle play-by-play duties on Friday while Nate Goodyear will be on the call on Sunday. Live stats will also be available for both contests.
Sacramento State's first game under new head coach Bunky Harkleroad was memorable though it was just an exhibition game. After trailing 26-18 in the early going, the Hornets outscored UC Santa Cruz 103-47 over the final 31 minutes and 42 seconds of the contest. That tally included a 19-0 run as Sacramento State dominated to end the first half and for the duration of the second half. The 119 points scored by the Hornets would have broken the program record for single game scoring, which is 111, if not for the game being an exhibition. The team's 42 made field goals, 111 field goals attempted, 16 three-point makes, 46 three-point attempts, and 78 rebounds would also break the program records if the game counted. The squad had 39 offensive rebounds and 39 defensive rebounds in an all-around offensive and defensive performance.
Eye Popping Numbers
Several Hornets recorded big individual numbers in the exhibition romp. Seven players scored in double-figures, with Alle Moreno (21 points), Se'Nyce Parrish (16), Hallie Gennett (15), Gigi Hascheff (14), Sadie Clements (12), Shanti Smith (11), and Takara Burse (10) all cracking double-digits. Burse added 13 rebounds for the only double-double of the contest while redshirt freshman forward Margaret Huntington had 19 rebounds and junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard tallied 12 assists. Five different Hornets knocked down multiple 3-pointers led by four 3-point makes from Gennett and Parrish.
Closing in on History
Senior guard Alle Moreno enters her final collegiate season ranked third in Sacramento State program history with 171 career 3-pointers made. She trails only Michelle St. Clair (175 threes) and Kim Sheehy (176) on the all-time list, while she has already established a new record for career 3-point attempts with 586 through three seasons. Moreno has had the two most prolific 3-point single season totals in program history, knocking down 78 threes in 2011-12 and 77 threes last season. With an average of 2.5 3-point makes per game over the last two seasons, Moreno should be able to break the career record within the first two weeks of the season.
The playing system employed by Coach Harkleroad relies heavily on frequent substitutions, often with all five players on the floor being removed after only a minute or so of playing time. As a result the Hornet bench will need to be as strong as the starters in order for the team to be successful, and the squad showed just how deep they are on Sunday.
Sacramento State's starters tallied 60 points while the bench scored 59, and the starters had 35 rebounds while the bench totaled 43. That balance will be crucial, as the starters combined to play just 109 of the 200 total minutes played by the team in its lone exhibition contest.
Bunky Harkleroad was named women's basketball head coach on Oct. 8 after four-year head coach Jamie Criaghead left the Hornets to assume the head coaching position at San José State. Harkleroad was a finalist for NCAA Div. II Coach of the Year last season at Glenville State College as he led his team to a 27-4 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Harkleroad's non-traditional style produces fast-paced play aimed at overwhelming an opponent both physically and mentally while providing fans with an entertaining product. With an overall record of 258-120 over 13 seasons as a head coach, his style has proved to be extremely effective. His Glenville State team led NCAA Div. II in scoring in each of his four seasons there after he spent the first nine seasons of his head coaching career at Berea College (KY), his alma mater.
Scouting Cal State Northridge (16-16, 9-9 Big West in 2012-13)
A former Big Sky Conference mate of the Hornets until 2001, Cal State Northridge has not faced Sacramento State since moving to the Big West. The Matadors had even 16-16 overall and 9-9 conference records last season but were picked to finish third out of nine teams in the 2013-14 Big West preseason poll. CSUN returns four starters and eight letter winners from last year, including junior guard Ashley Guay, who was selected on the all-Big West Preseason Team. The Matadors defeated Cal State San Marcos, 83-41, in their lone exhibition game while holding San Marcos to 25% shooting. Head coach Jason Flowers is in his fourth season leading Cal State Northridge.
Scouting San Diego State (27-7, 15-1 Mountain West in 2012-13)
San Diego State was upset in the Mountain West tournament final but advanced to the second round of the Women's NIT last season with a win over UC Santa Barbara. After one of the most successful seasons in program history the Aztecs lost four of five starters and six total letter winners, but the team was still picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason Mountain West poll. Junior forward Erimma Amarikwa, the Aztecs' only returning starter from last season, was an all-Mountain West preseason selection, while Louisville transfer Cierra Warren was predicted the league's Newcomer of the Year. The Aztecs scored a 77-45 exhibition win over Cal State San Marcos on Tuesday in which Warren had 16 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks in just 21 minutes played.
The Hornets return their starting backcourt from a year ago in seniors Alle Moreno and Se'Nyce Parrish and junior Fantasia Hilliard. The three returning starters helped Sacramento State set program records last season in field goals made (842), assists (523), and fewest turnovers (499). Moreno and Hilliard were both all-Big Sky honorable mention last season as Hilliard led the Big Sky and ranked 21st in the NCAA with 5.9 assists per game. Moreno is on the verge of breaking the program 3-point record, while Parrish made 43 three-pointers herself last season to go with 69 steals. Along with junior Takara Burse, the returning Hornet backcourt features some of the most talented and seasoned guards in the Big Sky Conference.
On the other hand, Sacramento State's frontcourt is almost entirely new after losing starting forwards Kylie Kuhns and Megan Kritscher and reserves Mallorie Franco and Natasha Torgerson to graduation. Senior Sadie Clements, who shot 32.9% from 3-point range last season, and junior Shanti Smith do return some frontcourt experience for the Hornets, as does redshirt freshman Margaret Huntington, who redshirted last season. Reigning Idaho State Player of the Year Hallie Gennett leads an exciting crop of newcomers up front along with Breanna Garrett and Casey Williams
A Historic Season
With a 19-12 record last season the Hornets had the most wins in a season in the program's Div.-I history. Since the Hornets moved up to Div. I for the 1991-92 season, Sacramento State's record for wins was 17, when the Hornets went 17-10 as an independent during the 1992-93 campaign. Sacramento State equaled the overall record for wins at 19, which came in a 19-7 record as an independent in 1990-91, their final season of Div. II competition. With 13 Big Sky wins last season, the Hornets eclipsed their previous record of 10 league victories, set during the 2009-10 season. That achievement needs to be put in context, however, because the Big Sky added two teams - North Dakota and Southern Utah - prior to last season and thus the Hornets played four additional conference games.
With five assists against Weber State on Feb. 28 of last season, Fantasia Hilliard eclipsed Heather Baker for the most assists in single-season school history. Hilliard ended the year with 184 assists, easily bettering Baker's previous school record of 160, set during the 1991-92 season. Her 5.9 assists per game led the Big Sky and ranked 21st in the NCAA last season after she averaged 4.8 assists as a freshman. Hilliard reached 10+ assists in four games last year, and through two seasons she is already fourth in program history with 334 career assists. At her current pace Hilliard should break the career assist record, which Baker set with 453 assists, during the 2013-14 season.
Sacramento State once again led the Big Sky in scoring last year, averaging 72.4 points per game. That total checked in at No. 17 in the NCAA as the Hornets led the Big Sky in scoring for the fourth consecutive year. The Hornets scored a season-high 103 points against Weber State on Jan. 19 and had 93 in a win over Southern Utah on Feb. 2. In 2011-12 the Hornets ranked No. 28 in the NCAA averaging 71.7 points per game. Before that, the Hornets averaged 70.2 points per game during the 2010-11 season and put up a whopping 79.1 points in 2009-10, which ranked No. 6 in the nation.
While the Hornets scoring prowess has continued to rank among the national leaders over the past few seasons, the defensive ability of the squad has improved dramatically. After allowing 86.3 points per game in 2010-11, the Hornets cut their points allowed to 78.6 in 2011-12. Last season the squad cut its opponent scoring by another to 7.7 points to 70.9, as the team has shed 15.4 points per game off its opponent scoring total in just two seasons. Not coincidentally, the number of season wins for the team has jumped from 4 to 13 to 19 during that time. Defensive coordinator Bill Baxter has been a driving force behind the squad's improved defense and is the lone coaching holdover from last year's staff.