SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With four assists Sacramento State junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard broke the program record for career assists, and freshman Gigi Hascheff scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Hornets to a 74-64 victory over Northern Colorado on Saturday.
Hilliard began the day just three assists shy of the program record of 453 career assists held by Heather Baker, who finished her Hornet career in 1993. With Baker in attendance on Saturday, Hilliard equaled the record in the first half and broke it at the 13:32 mark of the second half.
"Everyone stepped up today and played a good game and I just feel blessed," Hilliard said. "I hadn't really thought about (breaking the record) even today until someone told me but it's a great accomplishment and great to have it in a win."
Northern Colorado (10-8, 4-5 Big Sky) slowed the game down tremendously on offense, even passing up wide-open shots in hopes of keeping the score low. That was achieved but the Bears scored just 64 points of their own, a season-low against the Hornets, while Sacramento State (13-4, 5-3 Big Sky) made the most of their offensive opportunities and made a season-high 27 free throws in the win.
"I think it was important that we beat somebody that was trying to play keep away," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said, "I know its frustrating for our players and the flow of the game is different with what we are asking them to do. We've just tried to develop the mentality that we can still be disruptive playing "upside down" defense, chasing them off the dribble and keeping them tight. I think them playing slow actually helped us today a little bit."
Hascheff scored 18 of her 26 points in the first half and was the only Hornet to make more than one field goal in the opening period. She shot 8-of-9 from the field and hit a pair of 3-pointers as there were five ties and 13 lead changes through the first 20 minutes. The game was level at 25-25 with 5:11 to play before the Hornets went up by as many as six points and led by four at halftime.
The Bears got the first basket of the second half to cut the deficit to two points but never got any closer. After that opening hoop the Hornets went on a 10-0 run, holding Northern Colorado scoreless for nearly six minutes, to build a game-high 45-33 lead. The home team led by at least six points for the rest of the contest and made eight free throws in the final minute to finish the win.
The Hornets made a season-low five 3-pointers and attempted just 18 shots from beyond the arc, taking advantage of easier opportunities inside afforded by the Bears perimeter-focused defense. The free throw parade was key as well as Sacramento State attempted 20 more free throws than the Bears and shot 27-of-37 from the line.
"The drive lane was there, so we took that," said Hascheff, who scored 16 of her 26 points in the paint. "I didn't think as much shooting the ball today; when you're in rhythm like that it seems to go a lot better."
Hascheff finished 10-of-13 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free throw line, easily besting her previous career high of 16 points. Senior Alle Moreno added 15 points, shooting 10-of-12 from the line, while Hilliard had nine points and redshirt freshman Margaret Huntington scored nine points and pulled in a game-high 12 rebounds.
Sacramento State had a season-low six turnovers in the contest, including only two giveaways in the second half, while forcing 19 Bear turnovers and outscoring the visitors 24-8 in points off turnovers. Northern Colorado shot 56.5% for the game but made just three 3-pointers in seven attempts and missed several layups while attempting six fewer shots than the Hornets despite the huge free throw disparity.
The Hornets are on the road for their next four contests starting next Thursday at Idaho State.