Women’s basketball opens tournament against Southern Utah

State Hornet Staff

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Sacramento State women’s basketball team will kick off the Big Sky Conference tournament against Southern Utah this evening in Grand Forks, N.D. 

The Hornets finished the regular season with an overall mark of 18-10 and 10-10 conference record. They enter tournament play ranked as the seventh and final seed. 

Southern Utah (21-8, 15-5) finished the season tied for the best record in the Big Sky with North Dakota, but will act as the first seed in the tournament.

Sac State is 0-2 against Southern Utah this season, falling at home on Jan. 11 by a score of 97-79, followed by a 93-74 loss on Feb. 8 in Southern Utah.

Hornets’ head coach Bunky Harkleroad said his team will have to be more than effective on both ends of the floor if it wants to reverse its fortunes against the Thunderbirds.

“Obviously we have to score more points than them,” Harkleroad said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking away easy baskets from them and make good decisions with the ball.”

In the two losses, Sac State allowed Southern Utah to shoot a blistering 65.7 percent from the floor, while being limited to just 37.5 percent shooting.

Hornets freshman forward Margaret Huntington emphasized the importance of establishing momentum on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the post.

“I’m going to have to get better position on their posts,” Huntington said. “We’re just working on what defenses will work and get the best position against them.”

Harkleroad said he would like to see his team foul less, as Southern Utah went to the free throw line a combined 63 times in the first two games, while shooting 80.6 percent.

“Both times against them we put them at the free throw line way too much,” Harkleroad said. “That’s where we’ll start. 

Sac State junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard said a win against the best team in the tournament would be a statement victory for the Hornets. 

“We’re going to have to be the dictators of the game and play as a team,” Hilliard said. “They have the number, so personally I’m excited we’re playing them first. We can prove we have the better team. 

Harkleroad said his players will have to be focused on treating tonight’s contest as just another game in which they have to execute.

“You have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time,” Harkleroad said. “We’ll focus on Thursday and put all our eggs in that basket. Then we’ll go from there.”

This will be the 20th matchup between the two teams all-time. The Hornets are 7-12 against Southern Utah.

Tip-off will be at 12:30 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

Satchi Hover can be reached on Twitter @SatchiHover