WOMEN’S BASKETBALL WINS THRILLER OVER BIG TEN’S ILLINOIS, 109-107

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL WINS THRILLER OVER BIG TEN’S ILLINOIS, 109-107

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Playing their second game in less than 24 hours, the Sacramento State women's basketball team took down the undefeated Illinois Fighting Illini, 109-107, Saturday night. 

Sacramento State improved to 2-1 with the win while handing Illinois their first loss of the season, knocking them to 4-1. The win is the Hornets' first against a Big Ten in program history. 

Tiara Scott hit the game-winning layup with just two seconds remaining in regulation. With the game tied, 107-107, Scott inbounded the ball from near half court to Kennedy Nicholas at the arc. Nicholas handed the ball back off to Scott who charged the lane, splitting two Illinois defenders for the easy bucket.

The game's final basket gave Scott a career-best 29 points in the win. She shot 58% (11-19) overall from the floor, including an impressive 54% (7-13) from beyond the arc. Scott passed her previous career high of 25 points, a mark she achieved her freshman year (2/18/17 vs. Montana State).

Scott added five assists, two rebounds, and two steals to round out her career performance. Through three games this season, Scott is averaging 19.7 points and 6.3 assists per game. She is shooting a team-best 44.4% from three.

The 109-107 final was much closer than the game appeared early on. Sacramento State jumped out to a 34-23 lead after one quarter of play and led by as many as 18 with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. The Hornets took a 14-point lead into the half, 62-48.

Out of the break, Illinois dominated with a 37-point third quarter. They led the Hornets 85-80 as the game's final quarter began, but Sacramento State rallied back for their second come-from behind win of the season. 13 of Scott's career-high 29 points came in the game's final 10 minutes.

Hannah Friend added seven points in the Hornets' come-from-behind fourth quarter, capping her night with a team-high 33 points. She finished just one shy of her career high (34, 11/26/17 vs. UC Riverside) while adding five rebounds and three steals. Last year's leading scorer, Friend is off to a blistering start to the 2018-19 season, averaging 26.0 points per game while shooting 42.4%.

Kennedy Nicholas was key for the Hornets in Saturday night's win, as well, collecting her sixth career double-double. She scored 12 points while pulling in 15 rebounds, matching her career best (last, 2/1/18 at Eastern Washington). Nicholas hit two key free throws with 17 seconds remaining in the game while going 4-for-4 on the night. For the season, Nicholas is a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line while averaging a double-double (13.3 pts, 12.3 rebs). 

Point guard Milee Enger led the Hornets with six assists despite playing just 18 minutes. Six different Hornets totaled over 20 minutes in the win, led by Scott and Friend with 24 each.

As they did in their season-opening win, Sacramento State dominated the turnover battle, committing 11 turnovers to Illinois's 21. They then outscored the Fighting Illini, 26-10, in points off turnovers.

In total, the Hornets shot 37.6% (38-101) from the floor, including 36.8% (21-57) from beyond the arc. Their 101 total shots are their most this season.

By comparison, Illinois shot 54.4% (43-79) overall and 25.0% (5-20) from three. The Hornets made more three-point field goals than the Fighting Illini attempted. Illinois was led by Alex Wittinger, who played a game-high 35 minutes and scored 32 points. She added 14 rebounds in the effort.

Saturday night's win against Illinois was Sacramento State's first against a Big Ten opponent in program history. Coming into the 2018-19 season, Sacramento State had played just two games against the Big Ten, a loss to Penn State in 1992 and a loss to Ohio State in 1994.

The win moves the Hornets to 2-1 0 to start the 2018-19 season as they average 98.0 points per game. They will return home to the Nest to host Antelope Valley on Saturday, Dec. 1 as they look for their first 3-1 start since the 2013-14 season.

Saturday's game is scheduled for a 2:05 pm PT tip. More details, including information on tickets and video streaming, can be found online at HornetSports.com.