Women’s basketball just shy of pulling off an upset over USC

Jordan Santos

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The Sacramento State women’s basketball team (1-8) lost 101-99 in a game that came down to the wire against USC (7-2) on Sunday afternoon. Their loss wraps up the Hornets’ four-game road trip against Pac-12 competition.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for a team to go test themselves against four historic programs,” said coach Bunky Harkleroad. “We competed with three and I think that we should have won two of the games to be honest with you. Hopefully when we get back and heal up a little bit we will have become a better team.”

Fantasia Hilliard had a career-game with 28 points, two rebounds and three assists and looks to be reaching her potential coming into conference play. Fellow Hornet Maranne Johnson contributed 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal in the almost upset.

Hilliard spoke after the game about how playing some of the elite Pac-12 teams will help the Hornets grow stronger heading into Big Sky Conference play.

“I think that all of these games exposed us on what we need to work on,” Hilliard said.

The Trojans started off the game on fire and climbed to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of play.

The Hornets got their first bucket of the game after sophomore forward Kyhonta Doughty scored a layup while being fouled, and she hit the awarded free throw shot to put the score at 7-3 in favor of USC.

The women took their first lead of the game, 14-13, at the 14:50 mark in the first half after the team made three consecutive shots, with the last one coming on a layup by sophomore forward Gretchen Harrigan.

Both teams traded baskets until the Sac State made an offensive surge with just over six minutes left in the first half.

At the 6:10 mark, the Hornets started their run after a layup by Adella Randle-El cut the deficit to seven points, 38-31. 27 seconds later, freshman guard Johnson hit a three-pointer to cut the Trojan lead to 38-34. Just 26 seconds later, senior point guard Fantasia Hilliard hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one point, 38-37. The Hornets took the lead back from USC, 40-38, after Hilliard hit another three-pointer with just five minutes and six seconds left in the first half.

The Hornets closed out the first half on a strong note after Hallie Gennett hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Hornets a 58-52 lead at halftime.

The women attacked early in the second half as Hilliard scored the first bucket of the third quarter to give the team a 60-52 advantage. The women held their largest lead of the game at the 14:55 mark, after Gennett hit a three-pointer to give the Hornets an 11-point lead––73-62.

The Trojans were able to hold onto the lead after 6:26 for the rest of the game by pounding the basketball to the post area and by converting their free throw opportunities down the stretch.

Sac State remained competitive as Gennett hit a deep three-pointer with just 0.4 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to two points at 101-99.

USC was able to inbound the basketball and ran down the clock to secure the 101-99 victory.

The Hornets had one of their most efficient games in terms of scoring the basketball. The team finished shooting over 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc. They struggled from the foul line as they made only 10 out of 17 attempts.

The women were outrebounded by the Trojans 50-30, which led to easy baskets and free throw opportunities.

Johnson spoke after the game about how some of these tough losses are preparing the Hornets for conference play.

“It actually helps us with conference because a lot of those teams that we are going to play aren’t as good as the teams we are playing right now,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of shots to win these last games and I don’t think there is going to be a lot of the same competition in conference.”

Their next game is at home against Utah State on Friday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. The women have not had a home game since Nov. 20 when they beat New Mexico State, 93-85.