Sacramento State still leads the nation’s 343 NCAA Division I women’s basketball teams in steals (14.3), three-pointers (12.7), and turnover ratio (9.96) and is second in scoring (88.4 points). But the Hornets (16-7, 8-6) are having to grind for every win in the competitive Big Sky Conference, and they are in fourth place entering tonight’s game at Northern Colorado (8-15, 5-9).
Sac State lost to Eastern Washington 79-73 last Thursday, just the second home loss of the season, then hung on to beat lowly Portland State 84-80 on Saturday at The Nest. The Hornets eked out the victory over the Vikings (6-17, 4-10) despite forcing 25 turnovers, getting 17 steals and making 23 free throws.
Teams are learning how to attack first-year coach Bunky Harkleroad’s “The System,” while the Hornets’ lack of size and depth is taking a toll.
“I’m proud of our team for hanging in and winning,” Harkleroad said. “It’s a tough league, and it’s a grind. We’re limited by our size, and we have to play so much harder that we don’t have much room for error. Every team in the league, when we make bad choices, makes us pay.”
The Hornets, who play Saturday at conference-leading North Dakota (16-8, 11-4), have six regular-season games remaining as they aim to qualify for the seven-team conference playoffs.
Home court disadvantage? – With Hawaii (13-10, 7-4) coming to the Pavilion on Saturday, UC Davis women’s coach Jennifer Gross hopes her players can have more success on their home court.
The Aggies, 10-13 overall and 5-5 in the Big West Conference, are only 5-5 and 2-3 at home.
Those are disappointing numbers for Gross, the Aggies’ third-year coach, considering how tough UC Davis once was on its home court.
Gross knows, too; she was a Hall of Fame point guard for the Aggies from 1993 to 1997, and those teams were 101-18 overall and 48-7 at home.
“I’d love to get back to the point where teams dread coming into the Pavilion because they know they’re going to face a team that refuses to lose,” Gross said after the Aggies lost to visiting Cal State Fullerton 65-62 last Thursday. “Hopefully we can get this place back to creating an environment where the fans are in it, the band is in it, and where it’s overwhelming for the opponents.”
Saturday’s game is the Aggies’ annual cancer awareness “Pink Game” and will honor former player Genevieve Costello (2005-2009), who died of breast cancer at 26 in 2013.
The magic 300 – Entering tonight’s home game against Long Beach State (11-14, 7-4), UC Davis senior guard Ryan Spykens (Franklin) needs just one three-point basket to become the fourth Big West player to make 300.
Pacific’s Adam Jacobsen (1993-98) holds the record with 311.
In Thursday’s 74-64 loss at Cal State Fullerton, junior Corey Hawkins scored 21 points to join Sypkens as the second Aggies player this season and 20th overall to reach 1,000 career points.
The Aggies (8-17, 3-7), battling with UC Riverside (8-17, 3-8) and Cal State Fullerton (8-16, 3-7) for the last two conference playoff spots, play Saturday at Hawaii (18-7, 7-4).
Streaking Hornets – After beating Portland State in Portland for only the second time since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996, the Sac State men host third-place North Dakota tonight and second-place Northern Colorado on Saturday.
Sac State has won five straight games at home, the longest win streak against conference competition since joining the Big Sky.
The Hornets (11-12, 7-7) are two games behind Northern Colorado (15-8, 9-5) and one behind North Dakota (11-13, 8-6) and Northern Arizona and in a five-way tie for fifth with Montana, Montana State, Idaho State and Eastern Washington as they attempt to qualify for the Big Sky tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season
“We’re one game out of third and one game from 10th, that’s how competitive the Big Sky is,” coach Brian Katz said.
Weber State (14-8, 11-3), who the Hornets topped in overtime on Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot buzzer beater at The Nest earlier this season, leads the conference but was upset Monday by Idaho State.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.