Women’s basketball needs to express urgency

Sac+State+junior+guard+Brianna+Burgos+drives+for+a+lay-up+against+Idaho+State%27s+Isabel+Vara+de+Rey+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+13%2C+2016.+Burgos+scored+16+points+in+the+Hornet%27s+83-62+win+over+Idaho+State.%C2%A0

Sac State junior guard Brianna Burgos drives for a lay-up against Idaho State's Isabel Vara de Rey on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Burgos scored 16 points in the Hornet's 83-62 win over Idaho State. 

Chris Bullock

Time can either be your greatest friend, or your worst enemy.

For the Sacramento State women’s basketball team, they will have to use that time very wisely if they plan to make the top four of the Big Sky Postseason Tournament.

With only six games left in the regular season, Sac State (9-14, 6-6 in the Big Sky) has some ground to make up in the Big Sky standings, as they are currently sixth. The next couple of games for the Hornets will be two of the most important they have played all season.

The first game, a rematch of their Jan. 30 loss against second place Eastern Washington (17-8, 11-2 Big Sky), is going to be crucial for Sac State. In that game, although they only lost by 17 points (100-83), the Hornets weren’t able to get their high-paced offense off the ground as they normally would. The Hornets were held to 17 points in the first quarter of the game, as Eastern Washington beat Sac State with rebounding and stiff defense.

Led by the triple attack of Ashli Payne and the Hodgins sisters (Delaney and Hayley), Eastern Washington shot 57.6 percent in the first half, while Sac State only shot 37.5 percent. The Hornets managed to keep the game close, only trailing by one at the end of the half, 45-44. It was the second half, however, that led to Sac State’s demise.

In a majority of Sac State’s losses, the third quarter has proven to be their Achilles’ heel; the Eastern Washington game wasn’t any different. The Eagles went on a 15-0 run to start the third quarter, keeping Sac State scoreless for the first four and a half minutes. Eastern Washington finished with a 28-18 scoring advantage in the third en route to the win.

If Sac State is to win this game, the first key will be defense. Between Payne and the Hodgins sisters, they combined for 60 of Eastern Washington’s 100 points. Sac State currently leads the NCAA Division I in steals (366) and steals per game (15.9), and also has the fourth-place leader in steals in senior guard Adella Randle-El (3.65 spg). The Hornets had 20 steals in the game, but lacked in defensive rebounds (only 16 to Eastern Washington’s 29).

The second key for Sac State will be their three-point shooting. Sophomore guard Abbey Goodsell was 5-for-8 from three-point range; the rest of the Hornets were 6-of-33. Junior guard Brianna Burgos, who currently leads the Big Sky in three-pointers per game (3.2), was held to six points on 2-of-7 three-point attempts; a number that won’t suffice against Eastern Washington, who is third in three-point percentage defense (.297).

The second game, a Saturday afternoon showdown against third place Idaho (18-7, 10-3 Big Sky), is going to be a game of numbers. Idaho, in their 98-88 win at The Nest on Jan. 28, beat Sac State in rebounding, assists and free throw shooting, with the Hornets tying a season-low (at the time) in offensive rebounds (12).

For Sac State, their offensive rebounding will be a major factor in whether they win this game or not. The Hornets currently lead the Big Sky and NCAA Div. I in that category, averaging 19.3 a game.

Their three-point shooting will also be a major factor, considering that they shot a season low 6-of-29 in the Idaho loss, a game after setting the NCAA Div. I record for three-pointers made in a game (25 against Portland State on Jan. 23).

Idaho may have a lucky break, however. Sac State junior forward Gretchen Harrigan, who scored 17 points against them in their last matchup, is currently day-to-day after missing the last two games due to injury. Sac State will be leaning a lot on Randle-El and Burgos for their scoring, but they also have sophomore guard Maranne Johnson, who has scored 35 points in the last two games.

Both of their games will be on the road. The Eastern Washington game is this Thursday at 6 p.m. with their Idaho game this Saturday at 2 p.m. Both games can be streamed live at eversport.tv/big-sky.