Sacramento State’s women enter this week’s Big Sky Conference basketball tournament in Reno on a pretty good roll.
The Hornets have won six of their past eight games, including three on the road, despite being hammered by injuries and hampered, at times, by inconsistency.
But there has been one certainty throughout the season. Senior guard Adella Randle-El brings a cyclone of energy.
That isn’t expected to change when the seventh-seeded Hornets (13-16, 10-8) play 10th-seeded Southern Utah (5-24, 2-15) in a Big Sky tournament opener on Monday at 5:35 p.m. at the Reno Events Center.
“Adella Randle-El is an amazing player and has done a great job for us,” said Sac State coach Bunky Harkleroad. “She’s obviously a huge key to our success.”
The 5-foot-8 Randle-El, named to the All-Big Sky first team on Sunday, leads the Hornets in scoring (16.4, fourth best in the Big Sky), rebounding (5.5), steals (3.8), assists (3.4) and minutes (24.6). She set the Hornets’ season record with 110 steals this season and ranks third nationally in that category.
Randle-El, a cousin of former NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El, was selected on Saturday as the Big Sky Women’s Basketball Player of the Week after averaging 20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals in the Hornets’ wins at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
Because of injuries to key players Gretchen Harrigan, Brianna Burgos, Ashlyn Crenshaw and Abbey Goodsell in the second half of the season, Randle-El has played even more minutes in Harkleroad’s frenetic “The System.”
“Even when Adella is shooting poorly, she comes up with huge numbers,” Harkleroad said. “She does so many other things well, like rebounding the ball and getting steals.”
Randle-El said it’s easy to be a theft artist in the Hornets’ mile-a-minute, full-court pressing defense.
“I like to get dirty – I like to play aggressive,” she said. “With our style of defense, you can’t help but get a lot of deflections and steals.”
Randle-El somehow has stayed in one piece. She fearlessly drives to the basket against taller players, often winding up sprawled on the floor, and attacks the backboard with reckless abandon.
“Her body has to be taking a beating,” Harkleroad said. “She gets hammered.”
The Racine, Wis., product and former State Fair Community College (Sedalia, Mo.) player said she is looking forward to her first trip to Reno. She said Sac State has a good shot at the title despite its seventh-place finish during the regular season.
The Hornets lead Division I in three-pointers (12.3 per game), steals (15.2) and offensive rebounds (20.0). They are second in turnover margin (10.1) and turnovers forced (24.6) and third in scoring (86.7).
“Playing in Reno is big,” Randle-El said. “We just need to do what we do best – play hard, shut people down, force turnovers and hit our shots.”
Big Sky Conference
- Sacramento State men: vs. Montana State, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., at Reno Events Center.
- Sacramento State women: vs. Southern Utah, Monday, 5:30 p.m., at Reno Events Center.
Big West Conference
- UC Davis men: vs. UC Santa Barbara, Thursday, noon, at Honda Center, Anaheim.
- UC Davis women: vs. second-lowest remaining seed, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., at UC Irvine.