Sac State women’s basketball team overcomes poor first half to defeat Weber State

Hornets beat Wildcats 58-52 at home

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Sac State women’s basketball team overcomes poor first half to defeat Weber State

Sac State sophomore point guard Milee Enger prepares to shoot a free throw against Weber State on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Nest. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats 58-52.

Sac State sophomore point guard Milee Enger prepares to shoot a free throw against Weber State on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Nest. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats 58-52.

Rahul Lal

Sac State sophomore point guard Milee Enger prepares to shoot a free throw against Weber State on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Nest. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats 58-52.

Rahul Lal

Rahul Lal

Sac State sophomore point guard Milee Enger prepares to shoot a free throw against Weber State on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Nest. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats 58-52.

Shaun Holkko

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In a low-scoring game, the Sacramento State women’s basketball team overcame a 15-point first half deficit to defeat Weber State 58-52 on Thursday night at the Nest.

The Hornets (7-14, 5-7 Big Sky Conference) and Wildcats (3-18, 1-11) came into Thursday’s game as two of the bottom three teams in the Big Sky standings.

Weber State opened the game with a 5-2 lead two minutes into the game. Sac State then responded with a 7-0 run over the next three minutes, taking a 9-5 lead. The Wildcats held the Hornets scoreless over the final five minutes and closed the first quarter on a 15-0 run, leading 20-9 after one period.

Sac State and Weber State played a nearly even second period, as the Wildcats outscored the Hornets 10-9. Weber State held a 31-19 lead at halftime. The Hornets struggled shooting in the first half, converting 8-of-34 (23.5%) attempts.

RELATED: ‘I never thought she could be an athlete’: The story of senior guard Gabi Bade

“It was frustrating because I thought we got some really good looks at the basket and a lot of them didn’t go in,” coach Bunky Harkleroad said. “I thought we tensed up a little bit and played a little tight for some stretches instead of just kind of relaxing and playing like we were at home.”

Harkleroad simplified things for his team at halftime by easing their nerves before beginning the second half.

“We need to act like it’s our home gym,” Harkleroad said. “We’ve been down before when we don’t score. We just encouraged our players to relax, have fun and work harder when the ball didn’t go in the basket.”

The Hornets came out of the locker room on a tear, matching their first half scoring total in the third quarter alone, outscoring the Wildcats 19-10. Sac State shot 45.5% from the field, nearly doubling its first half shooting percentage. Weber State led 41-38 after three quarters.

“Our leaders on the team took over the halftime talk and just said, ‘We need to refocus on doing our jobs,’” said senior forward Kennedy Nicholas. “This game is won on defense. We can get layups and we can get runs, but we gotta get stops.”

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Rahul Lal
Sac State senior guard Gabi Bade looks for an open teammate against Weber State on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Nest. Bade had seven points, four rebounds and four steals in the win.

Nicholas made a layup for Sac State with 7:48 remaining, tying the game at 44 and sparking an 8-0 run. The Hornets retook the lead for the first time since the opening quarter and held a 50-44 lead with 5:36 remaining.

Sac State went on to complete the comeback, outscoring Weber State 20-11 in the final quarter to win 58-52.

“This isn’t the first time that we had a deficit that we’ve had to come back from,” said sophomore point guard Milee Enger. “Our whole season has been described as an early lead and a loss or a come back win. So this is just another one of those comeback wins.”

The Hornets were led to the win by Nicholas, who had a double-double. The senior forward had three game-highs with 19 points, 17 rebounds (five offensive) and four blocks. Nicholas struggled shooting in the first half, making 1-of-8 attempts but was a perfect 4-of-4 in the second half.

“We had people not play so hot, but then turn it on in the second half,” Enger said. “Ken didn’t have the best first half and she’ll admit that, but she turned it around in the second half and was really a big part of our win.”

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Enger, a Utah native, contributed 12 points for the Hornets. Sophomore forward Tiana Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds in the win.

“The first quarter can get away from you, but if that’s your worst quarter, you can always come back and chip through the last three and get a dub,” Nicholas said.

RELATED: A tale of 2 halves for the Sac State women’s basketball team

Weber State also had three players score in double-digits. Freshman guard Ula Chamberlin had a team-high 13 points followed by junior forward Kayla Watkins and freshman forward Liz Graves who each scored 11.

The Hornets host Idaho State on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

“(Idaho State is) always very physical,” Harkleroad said. “They’re always hard to play against. They move the ball well, pass the ball very well and they’re just always tough.”