For all the record-making and dazzling play the Sacramento State women’s basketball team has delivered at the Nest this season, the Hornets may have topped it all on Saturday in their Big Sky Conference home season finale against Idaho State.
They trailed by 10 points with five minutes left in the lowest-scoring game of the season for the usually prolific Hornets.
But with their Big Sky tournament hopes at stake, Sac State finished the game with a 13-0 run to shock the Bengals 56-53.
Paired with Northern Colorado’s loss at Portland State on Saturday, Sac State (18-9, 10-8 Big Sky) clinched one of seven spots in the conference tournament for the third consecutive season.
Sac State made only 4 of 27 shots through the first 16:30 of the second half. The Hornets finished by making four of their last five while holding Idaho State scoreless through the final 5:09 of the game.
It was the last home game for seniors Alle Moreno and Sadie Clements – both were honored along with injured Se’Nyce Parrish before the game – and they came up big for Sac State in combining for 31 points.
Moreno’s layup and free throw with 1:33 left cut Idaho State’s lead to two, then Moreno found Clements for a three-pointer to give the Hornets a 54-53 lead with 36 seconds to play.
The Bengals missed twice on the other end of the floor, and the career-high 16th rebound by redshirt freshman Margaret Huntington led to a breakaway layup by junior Takara Burse for the game’s final points.
Clements, playing a season-high 34 minutes, tied her career high with 19 points, while Moreno added 12 points.
Moreno, Clements and Parrish, who played in the Hornets’ first two games this season before suffering a knee injury, have been part of a remarkable women’s basketball turnaround at the school.
As freshmen, they were on a Hornets team that went 4-25, then helped lead this year’s team through a last-minute coaching change on the eve of the season’s start.
While Sac State already has established several school and Big Sky scoring records this season, it has more goals to aim for tonight at Montana and on Saturday at Montana State in the regular-season finales.
A pair of wins would give the Hornets a school-record 20. A split would enable the Hornets to equal last year’s 19-win season.
Sac State, which leads the NCAA D-I in three-point shots made (12.4) and steals (13.4) per game, also is six shy of the NCAA single-season record of 342 made three-pointers set by Florida Gulf Coast in 2012. The Hornets have shattered the NCAA record for three-point attempts (981 by Morehead State in 2010) with 1,055.
Hornets men – Sacramento State has won seven consecutive Big Sky games at home, but the Hornets may have to extend that streak to nine in order to make the conference tournament.
Entering Thursday night’s game against Montana (16-11, 11-7) at the Nest, the Hornets (13-14, 9-9) are in a four-way tie for sixth with Eastern Washington, Portland State and Montana State (14-15, 9-9), which the Hornets host Saturday.
Only seven teams make the tournament and only first-place Weber State (16-10, 13-5) has clinched a playoff berth as well as the right to host the Big Sky tournament.
Nine teams are still in contention for the remaining six playoff spots.
Last year, Sac State entered its final two games at Montana and Montana State with a chance to finish with its first winning record at the D-I level and make the Big Sky tournament for the first time since 2006. But the Hornets lost both games.
Sac State hasn’t had much good fortune with Montana either on the road or at home. The two-time defending conference and tournament champion Grizzlies have a 35-5 advantage in the series, including 14 consecutive wins. Sac State last beat the Grizzlies seven years ago at the Nest.
Sac State didn’t help its cause by falling 79-67 at Weber State last Thursday, followed by losing to ninth-place Idaho State 80-67 two days later, despite a career-high 26 points, including eight three-pointers, by junior guard Dylan Garrity.
The losses dropped Sac State’s conference road record to 2-8.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.