Sac State women’s basketball crashes back to earth in season ending loss

The Hornets commit 21 turnovers


Sac State junior guard Summer Menke and Montana State freshman forward Lexi Deden fight to box each other out for a rebound during their second round game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The Hornets committed 21 turnovers in the season ending loss. (Photo courtesy of Big Sky Conference)

Garry Singh

Updated at 10:45 p.m.

For the Sac State women’s basketball team, Monday’s first round victory in the Big Sky Conference Tournament proved to be a fleeting ray of sunshine in an otherwise stormy season as their year ended with an 11 point loss to Montana State Tuesday.

The Hornets (3-22, 3-19 Big Sky) committed a backbreaking 21 turnovers in their 66-55 loss to the Bobcats (17-6, 14-3 Big Sky).

“You have to give them credit when we throw the ball away like that, ” said head coach Bunky Harkleroad. “I thought they did a good job being aggressive and being in the right spots and forcing us to speed up when we necessarily did not need to and make some bad decisions.”

The Hornets started the game with a driving layup by sophomore guard Jordan Olivares. Both teams had offensive struggles in the first few minutes of the first quarter and were unable to score, but the Hornets hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 9-3 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter.

The Bobcats responded with their own 11-0 run to take back the lead while the Hornets turned the ball over five times during that span. The Hornets trailed after one-quarter of play to the Bobcats, 17-12. The Hornets shot 38% from the 3-point arc but had 6 turnovers.

Sophomore guard Sarah Abney helped the Hornets cut the Bobcats’ lead to only three points in the second quarter with a corner 3-pointer with seven minutes to play in the half, but the Bobcats pushed the lead to 28-18 with three minutes left, making three straight shot attempts.

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Sac State sophomore guard Jordan Olivares dribbles between two Montana State players during their second round game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The Hornets lost 66-55. (Photo courtesy of Big Sky Conference)

In the last two minutes before the first half ended, the Hornets ignited an 8-0 run while forcing the Bobcats into four turnovers. Seven Hornet players scored at least one basket in the first half of play.

Junior guards Summer Menke and Abney both had six points. Heading into halftime, the Hornets trailed 30-26 to the Bobcats.

“Coming out of halftime we weren’t down by much and we knew that ‘hey we just got to keep fighting,'” said junior forward Tiana Johnson. “We need to fix a few things, fix our turnovers if we can and just have some more composure and play the offense and defense we know how to play.”

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The Hornets came out in the third quarter with a smooth hook shot in the paint by Olivares. Yet the Hornets in the next few minutes had three straight turnovers, which led to a 6-0 run for the Bobcats with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

The bleeding did not stop there for the Hornets, allowing the Bobcats to push the lead to 13 points at the end of the third quarter. The Hornets allowed the Bobcats to score 21 points off their turnovers. For the Hornets, Abney was hot from deep making four 3-pointers in the first three quarters.

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Junior guard Milee Enger made a layup to get the Hornets going in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats missed their next four-shot attempts, but the Hornets still did not take advantage of the opportunity and trailed 61-45 with nearly five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Both teams seemed to go cold toward the end of the fourth quarter. The Bobcats went 1-10 on their last field goal attempts. The Hornets had a two-minute scoring drought as well during that time.

Abney led the Hornets in scoring with 12 points, but the difference in this game was the Bobcats’ defense, causing 21 turnovers for the Hornets. The Bobcats had only 10 turnovers and 14 steals.

After the game Abney reflected on the the unique, pandemic-marred season.

“Every single person on the team has so much passion and love for each other and we genuinely left it all on the court yesterday and today and we care a lot,” Abney said.  “I mean we had the option to opt-out and we didn’t and we’re here today and I’m super grateful.”