SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State hung tough with USC, trailing by just 12 points with three minutes to play, but the Trojans hot shooting propelled the Pac-12 school to a 111-95 victory over the Hornets on Saturday night in The Nest.
In the second game of a home doubleheader with the Hornet men's basketball team, a near capacity crowd of 954 fans was one hand as the Hornets hosted a Pac-12 opponent for the second consecutive season.
USC (7-1) won its fifth straight game after a victory at No. 19 Texas A&M on Wednesday, likely propelling the Trojans to a top-25 national ranking come Monday. Sacramento State (3-5) saw its two-game winning streak come to a close despite a season-best shooting night itself.
"Obviously USC is a very good team and they capitalized on every mistake we made it seemed like," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "They did a great job getting to the free throw line and they made us pay dearly there. When you're playing a game at that level it comes at you so fast, and that's a great test for us and I think we showed a lot of great things that we can move forward on."
USC, which entered the game ranked 12th in the nation averaging 23.6 free throw attempts per game, got to the line early and often on Saturday, starting the game 10-of-10 at the line in the first quarter and finishing 24-of-28 (85.7%) at the stripe for the game. The Trojans shot well in all facets, finishing at 58.8% overall with a blistering 7-of-12 (58.3%) from 3-point range.
Sacramento State had its best shooting game of the season at 46.2% (36-of-78) from the field. The Hornets finished 10-of-27 (37%) from 3-point range and were 13-of-19 (68.4%) at the line.
Despite the impeccable USC free throw shooting in the first quarter the Hornets trailed just 30-28 after the opening period. Sacramento State got out to a 15-11 lead at the 5:44 mark of the first quarter after an 8-0 spurt, forcing an early Trojan timeout.
After the Trojans pulled ahead the Hornets scored the last four points of the quarter to trail by just two going to the second, but USC began the next period on a 12-0 run to open up a 42-28 lead. USC shot 13-of-19 (68.4%) in the second quarter but the Hornets shot 47.1% and the lead for the visitors was just 60-49 at halftime.
The Trojan lead ballooned to 22 points at 74-52 at the 6:21 mark of the third quarter and they led by 19 heading to the fourth. Still down by 19 at 101-82 with under four minutes to play, Sacramento State had a quick 7-0 run to cut the margin to 101-89 but could get no closer.
Sacramento State outrebounded the taller Trojans 19-16 in the first half and ended the game behind by just three in the rebounding battle, 39-36. The Hornets had 14 offensive rebounds and outscored USC 15-8 in second chance points while forcing 16 Trojan turnovers with a 27-19 scoring edge in points off turnovers.
Senior Emily Easom led the Hornets with 21 points, shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 3-of-3 at the line. After scoring a career-high 37 points on Tuesday, junior Maranne Johnson had 15 points and a team-high three steals on Saturday while senior Ashlyn Crenshaw had 14 points and four rebounds, senior Margaret Huntington had seven points and 10 rebounds, and junior Justyce Dawson had eight points and seven assists.
USC had five players in double-figures, with three reaching double-digit point totals just in the first half. Aliyah Mazyck had a game-high 24 points and three steals and Kristen Simon had 23 points and nine rebounds. Minyon Moore had a double-double with 13 points and 15 assists off the bench.
"The crowd was great and I'd like to thank everybody for coming out," Harkleroad added. "It was great to play the nightcap after a men's game and we appreciate those guys a lot too for helping us make it happen. It was just a great environment."
The Hornets will play a second consecutive Pac-12 team on Thursday, facing Cal at 7:00 p.m. in Berkeley to open a two-game road trip.