College Sports

Pac-12 teams will test Sacramento State women’s basketball

The Sacramento men’s and women’s team will play a doubleheader Saturday at The Nest, and it will be the women’s team that plays the marquee nightcap game.

The Sac State women (3-4) face USC (6-1) at 7:30 p.m., shortly after the Hornet men (1-5 before Thursday night’s game at Pacific) finish their nonconference game against UC Merced (1-7). That game tips off at 5 p.m.

USC is off to a strong start, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 66-62 on the road Wednesday. The Trojans are led by 6-foot-2 Kristen Simon, the team’s top scorer (15.3 points per game) and rebounder (10.1). Basketball Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is USC’s coach.

This is the second consecutive season the Hornets will host a Pacific-12 Conference team, losing to UCLA last season.

The Sac State women will follow the USC game by playing at Cal (6-0) on Thursday, the third consecutive year the Hornets have faced the Bears in Berkeley.

Despite the long odds of upsetting USC or Cal, coach Bunky Harkleroad said the Pac-12 competition is a great test for his players and good preparation for the Big Sky Conference.

“I think the speed and size of that type of competition is a great opportunity for our players.” Harkleroad said. “We can do a lot of good things and learn to do a lot of good things against those teams.”

Senior forward Margaret Huntington agrees.

“It’s awesome to get those big games, especially at The Nest,” said Huntington, who leads the Big Sky in rebounding at 10.4 per game. “We get great support here and love playing in front of our home crowd.”

Sac State will look to ride the hot hand of junior guard Maranne Johnson into Saturday’s game. She had a career-high 37 points in the Hornets’ 102-72 win over Division II Stanislaus State on Tuesday at The Nest. It was the ninth-highest, single-game scoring total in program history.

The Hornets are No. 4 nationally in NCAA D-I scoring at 91.1 points a game but also are allowing 92 points per game playing Harkleroad’s up-tempo “The System.”

But Sac State has been without four key players this season because of injury. Seniors Gretchen Harrigan and Kyhonta Doughty and junior Taylor Brown have yet to play. Brianna Burgos, a senior guard and all-conference preseason selection, played in her first game of the season against Stanislaus State. The Hornets’ No. 2 scorer last season (14.4 points) is coming back from knee surgery.

Aggie road warriors – The UC Davis men’s team continues to pile up the miles. The Aggies (5-3) are at Idaho (3-3) on Saturday for a nonconference game after playing last week in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, where they won one of three games.

The Aggies’ 89-75 win over Holy Names on Nov. 17 has been the only home game at The Pavilion, where they won’t play again until Dec. 17 against William Jessup.

The road games haven’t affected junior forward Chima Moneke or senior guard Brynton Lemar.

Moneke made the all-tournament team in Anchorage – averaging 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds – and Lemar was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 23 points with five assists in the Aggies’ 81-72 win over Sac State at the Golden 1 Center on Nov. 21. Lemar also had a team-high 17 points and five assists in UCD’s 64-58 win over Drake in Alaska.

Aggie homebodies – While the men have been on the road most of the early season, UCD women’s team will play their fifth home game Friday when the Aggies (4-1) host San Diego State (2-4). The Aggies’ only road game was a 95-87 win over Pacific in Stockton on Nov. 21. They will play at No. 11 Stanford on Sunday.

The Aggies will look to bounce back from a 64-60 loss to Hofstra last Sunday at the Pavilion. Sophomore forward Morgan Bertsch, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Hofstra, leads the Aggies in scoring (16.2) and is tied for the lead in rebounding (5.6).

The Aztecs start former Placer High star and freshman forward Baylee Vanderdoes, younger sister of UCLA football star Eddie Vanderdoes. Baylee averages six points and 4.8 rebounds.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP