SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Senior Margaret Huntington had her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 14 rebounds and Sacramento State closed both halves with strong defensive efforts to pick up an 82-76 win over Northern Arizona on Kids Day Saturday in The Nest.
Sacramento State (6-10, 2-3 Big Sky) held Northern Arizona (5-10, 1-3 Big Sky) without a made field goal over the last three minutes and 33 seconds of the first half and without a made field goal over the last 3:20 of the second half. The Hornets ended the first half on an 8-1 run, taking a 45-38 lead into the intermission, and closed out the game with a 10-4 run.
The Hornets led by just two points, 74-72, after an NAU 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the game but outscored the Lumberjacks 10-4 from there, permitting just four Northern Arizona free throws. The Sacramento State lead was just 78-76 with 13 seconds remaining but Justyce Dawson made two free throws and the Hornets got a defensive stop before Huntington was fouled with less than a second left and knocked down two free throws to finish the game.
The Hornets took 22 more shots than the Lumberjacks and forced 27 turnovers with just 14 of their own. Sacramento State had a 28-19 advantage in points of turnovers and shot the ball better on Saturday, finishing at 38% overall and 10-of-29 (35%) from 3-point range with a 10-of-11 performance at the free throw line.
"In the last three games, even the loss to Portland State, there have been several categories for us that have gone up significantly," Sacramento State head coach Bunky Harkleroad said. "We're forcing more turnovers, we're getting a significant shot differential, we're stealing the ball more, so those have all been huge for us and given us a shot to win basketball games."
The team did struggle again in the second half on Saturday, shooting 3-of-15 from beyond the arc and shooting just 27% overall in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets made 8-of-9 free throw attempts in the fourth to pull out a win. Sacramento State led by as many as 13 points early in the fourth quarter before NAU drew within two.
"The second half was ridiculously frustrating at times, but with three minutes to go we took a deep breath and refocused and I was really proud of our team for doing that," Harkleroad said. "I'm happy we won and that we're getting better."
Huntington posted her fourth game this season with 14 or more rebounds and her seventh double-digit rebounding game of the year. Senior Brianna Burgos, who was the top 3-point shooter in the Big Sky last year before missing nine months of action with a knee injury, found her stroke again on Saturday shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point range for 12 points.
Senior Gretchen Harrigan had two huge baskets in the final minute and a half of the game and finished with a team-high 14 points and four steals. NCAA leading 3-point shooter Maranne Johnson hit three triples and had 11 points, four assists, and four steals and senior Emily Easom had 11 points.
Kaleigh Paplow had a game-high 20 points with six rebounds to lead the Lumberjacks. Brittani Lusain had 16 rebounds, eight points, and five assists and Olivia Lucero posted 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. NAU shot well, finishing at 48% overall, 5-of-15 from 3-point range, and 13-of-16 at the free throw line, but the last three minutes of each half were the difference.
Sacramento State embarks on a three-game Big Sky road trip with games at Montana State on Thursday and Montana next Saturday before playing at Portland State the following Saturday.