SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After a level first half Sacramento State outscored Northern Arizona 61-36 in the second half as six Hornets scored in double-figures en route to a 104-79 Big Sky victory over Northern Arizona on Thursday night in The Nest.
The game was tied 43-43 at halftime before the Hornets shot 51.4% in the second half, their highest scoring half of the season, and pulled away for their largest victory of the year.
"We didn't have a really high energy level and we weren't really focused in the first half," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "You have to give Northern Arizona credit because they played hard and they outplayed us in the first half. We played better in the second half; we played harder, we made a few better choices, and we hit a few more shots so fortunately we were able to pull away."
Northern Arizona (3-8, 0-3 Big Sky) shot 54.8% in the first half but just 44.7% in the second half and was undone by 35 total turnovers, the most the Hornets have forced this season. Sacramento State (11-1, 3-0 Big Sky) shot just 31.8% in the first half, including 31.0% from 3-point range, but rallied in the second half to turn a close game into a rout.
There were 16 lead changes and seven ties in the first period. The Hornets were up 33-26 with four and half minutes left but Northern Arizona closed the half on a 17-10 run, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to bring the score even at halftime.
Sacramento State took a 50-49 lead off a 3-point strike from freshman Hallie Gennett two minutes into the second half and never trailed again. The Hornet lead reached double figures at the 12:20 mark of the half and continued to grow.
Down 18 points with three minutes left NAU inexplicably continued to foul the Hornets and extend the game, with the home team going up by as many as 28 points before settling on the 25-point win.
Gennett (17 points), freshman Gigi Hascheff (15), junior Fantasia Hilliard (14), junior Takara Burse (13), junior Shanti Smith (12), and senior Sadie Clements (11) led a balanced Hornet attack. The squad hit 17 three-pointers and totaled 21 steals, both above their NCAA-leading averages, and had season-highs in both free throws made (23) and attempted (34). In forcing 35 turnovers Sacramento State had a 48-17 advantage in points off turnovers.
"We regained our focus in the second half; we knew we were the better team and we just had to pick up our focus and our energy," said Burse, who had team highs of six rebounds and five steals as well as three assists in the contest. "Defensively we tried to force them into more turnovers because that's always the game plan, and for myself I had to find any way possible to go get the ball. We always try to share the ball and when somebody's on we try to feed them and we look to help each other out and we did a good job of not playing selfish."
Now 8-0 at home this season, Sacramento State will conclude its season-long four game homestand on Saturday hosting Southern Utah at 2 p.m.