BOISE, Idaho – Sacramento State was unable to slow a furious Northern Arizona fourth-quarter comeback and watched as a 10-point lead evaporated in Monday's tournament opener against Northern Arizona. Playing in the opening game of the 2019 Big Sky Conference Tournament, the Hornets fell to the Lumberjacks, 74-69.
The No. 9 Hornets close their season with a 10-19 overall record and a 6-14 mark against Big Sky opponents. No. 8 Northern Arizona improves to 13-17 overall (9-11 Big Sky) and will advance to face the No. 1 seed Idaho Vandals tomorrow, Tuesday, March 12, at noon MT.
Sacramento State used a 21-point second quarter to climb out to a 35-31 lead at half time over the Lumberjacks. The continued to add on, going up by as much as 10 late in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter is where things took a turn for the Hornets in Monday's tournament opener. Although Sacramento State scored 19 in the quarter, Northern Arizona went on an absolute tear, scoring 31 fourth-quarter points. Despite multiple attempts to force a comeback, Sacramento State was unable to slow the Lumberjacks in the period.
Northern Arizona shot 50% (7-for-14) from the floor and made 17-of-23 fourth quarter free throws. Many of those were the result of the Hornets fouling to stop the clock, but NAU refused to miss and continued to push the lead.
In total, Sacramento State actually outshot Northern Arizona, shooting 34.3% (24-70) compared to the Lumberjack's 33.3% (22-66). But Northern Arizona was better in every other category, leading the Hornets in rebounds (49-45), assists (12-8), turnovers (10-12), and steals (7-6).
Hannah Friend led Sacramento State with 19 points and 12 rebounds, her 10th double-double of the season. Despite a game-high 19 points, only six of them came in the game's second half.
Friend, who came in averaging 19.1 points per game, was just 5-for-16 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from distance, but made 9-of-11 free throws in the game.
Kennedy Nicholas paced the Hornets with 14 rebounds, another game high, but had just eight points as she went 3-for-7 from the floor.
Nicholas also had six blocks in Monday's loss, the third time this season she has recorded six or more blocks in a game. That moves her to 129 for her career and into the fourth spot in program history for most career blocks.
Gabi Bade had 15 points for Sacramento State, though most of them came very late in the game. Bade put up 10 of her 15 points, making two jumpers and two threes, all in the game's final 40 seconds.
Despite Monday's game signaling the end of the 2018-19 women's basketball season, most of the roster will return for the 2019-20 season as the team graduates just one senior.