Hornets defeat University of Pacific 87-79 in first round of WNIT

State Hornet Staff

In its first postseason game in program history, Sacramento State women’s basketball won 87-79 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament against the University of Pacific on Thursday night.

“We felt ready, we know this is an opportunity we worked for all season to get to,” said sophomore forward Gretchen Harrigan. “I think that we were really ready and we were just fired up about coming out here and making school history.”

The Hornets and the Tigers battled in the first half, tying the game eight times.

In the first half of the game the Hornets had a field goal percentage of 40.5 percent (15-37) and 3-point field goal percentage of 33.3 (6-18). The Tigers had a stronger field goal percentage of 56.7 percent, making 17 of 30 shots, and a 3-point percentage of 57.1 (4-7).

While the Hornets did not end the first half with the better field goal percentage, Sac State entered halftime on top with a five-point lead of 45-40.

Harrigan, who held the second highest point total for the Hornets with 14, scored the first points of the game for Sac State with a 2-point layup.

“I feel like as long as I helped the team more than I hurt it then can’t really complain,” Harrigan said. “I was happy with my performance and how I helped the team.”

With four lead changes in the first half, Sac State only led for a total of 5:02, while UOP led for a majority of the time with 10:17.

In the intense start of the contest, the Hornets managed to force 16 turnovers to UOP’s eight in the first half. Sac State was playing strong defense, getting 13 steals and a total of 16 rebounds in the first period.

In the second half the ferocity between the two teams did not falter.

Sac State coach Bunky Harkleroad commented on the team’s play.

“We played hard the whole way, and I think we were able to wear them down physically and mentally the whole way,” Harkleroad said. “We did a good job.”

The Tigers put up a strong fight in the second half, but Sac State’s energy was even stronger.

The Hornets bettered their field goal percentage in the second half to 43.3 percent. UOP’s field goal percentage dropped significantly after halftime, going down to 33.3 percent.

“Our energy was actually pretty good,” said Sac State guard Adella Randle-El. “We started off good and we had a lot of energy in warmups, it was pretty good.”

Sac State did not let UOP take back the lead for the entirety of the second half. The largest lead for the Hornets was 17 points.

The Hornets concluded the game with a total of 35 rebounds, 15 steals and three blocks. The women committed 14 turnovers and 21 personal fouls.

The Tigers ended the contest with 41 rebounds overall, five steals and four blocks. UOP turned the ball over a total of 22 times and tallied up an equal amount of person fouls with 22.

Kendall Kenyon was the leading player for UOP scoring 28 points.

Sac State’s Randle-El led in points scored with 20 points. Randle-El and Harrigan were the only two Hornets to make it into double digits for points scored.

“Everyone did their part, everyone stepped up,” said senior Fantasia Hilliard. “Like any night, anybody can have a good night, Adella has been playing well the past couple of games. We all played well together.”

The Hornets last field goal of the game was made at 6:04 in the second half. The remaining seven points were accumulated through free throws with the Tigers fouling frequently at the end of the game.

The Tigers, who were fighting in their fourth season in the WNIT, fell to the Hornets only scoring 39 points to Sac State’s 42 in the final period.

“I was really proud of our effort, I thought we played really hard,” Harkleroad said. “This was a tough environment against a good basketball team so to win a postseason game in March is a nice accomplishment.”

The Sac State women will continue in the postseason with an opportunity to play at home. The Hornets will compete in the second round of the WNIT on Monday at the Hornets Nest hosting Eastern Washington University.