The Sacramento State women’s basketball team opened Big Sky Conference play Saturday afternoon at the Nest with an 85-48 loss to the Montana State Bobcats.
The Hornets (2-8, 0-1 Big Sky) returned home to the Nest following nine days off for Christmas, while the Bobcats (5-5, 1-0) came into the matchup looking to break a three-game losing streak.
Sac State started all three seniors for the second time this season as guards Gabi Bade and Camariah King started alongside forward Kennedy Nicholas. Junior guard Kennedy Burks and sophomore guard Summer Menke rounded out the starters for Sac State.
“We started our best five players today,” said coach Bunky Harkleroad. “But that’s going to be determined by how we continue to play and practice.”
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The Hornets got out to an early 7-3 lead two minutes into the game. That was the last time the Hornets would lead as the Bobcats went on a 12-0 run and closed the quarter with a 15-10 lead.
Sac State and MSU played a competitive second period as the Bobcats outscored the Hornets 14-9 to take a double-digit lead into halftime at 29-19.
The Bobcats’ early shooting struggles disappeared in the third quarter. MSU shot 12-24 from the field and made all seven of their free throw attempts. The Bobcats went on a 14-0 run to open the second half and stretch their lead to 24.
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MSU would go on to outscore Sac State 32-12 in the third period. The Bobcats scored more points in the third quarter alone than Sac State had throughout the first three quarters of the game (31). MSU held a 30-point lead at 61-31 after three quarters.
The Hornets had their best offensive period in the fourth as they scored 17 points. The Bobcats outscored Sac State 24-17 in the final period to win by 37 at 85-48.
“When you miss a box out, you turn the ball over, good teams make you pay,” Harkleroad said. “Montana State is a good team and made us pay for our mistakes.”
A big difference in the game was rebounding, as the Bobcats outrebounded the Hornets 59-37.
“We had a tough time putting a body on someone,” Nicholas said. “Just forgetting the little stuff is what wins games and little stuff will close gaps. What we need to really focus on the next couple of days is just putting a body on someone, not just jumping for the ball.”
Senior forward Martha Kuderer scored a game-high 23 points for MSU, a new career-high. Senior center Madeline Smith added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“Today’s game was the first day back after break and that was pretty obvious,” Nicholas said. “I think it was a starting point for us that we can only grow from here.”
For the Hornets, sophomore forward Tiana Johnson had a team-high 10 points and five rebounds off the bench. Nicholas and Menke each contributed seven points.
Sac State has yet to defeat a Division I opponent this season with their only wins coming against NAIA schools, Cal State Maritime and Pacific Union College.
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The Hornets play next against the University of Montana at the Nest Monday with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m.