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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Sac State’s stellar defense leads to two conference wins

The Hornets’ 31-point victory was their largest win this season
Rinn Lee
Redshirt sophomore guard Benthe Versteeg looks to pass on a drive to the basket against the Idaho State Bengals Thursday, Feb 8, 2024. Versteeg had a team-high nine assists

The Sacramento State women’s basketball team defended The Nest in back-to-back games against Idaho State and Weber State. The Hornets are finding their rhythm with three wins in their last four conference matchups.

On Thursday, Sac State held on to the win behind a strong defensive performance. Two days later, redshirt sophomore guard Benthe Versteeg led the way with a historic performance.

Thursday: Sac State: 61, Idaho State: 58

Swarming defense gave the Sacramento State women’s basketball team the edge in a bruising 61-58 win, at The Nest against the Idaho State Bengals Thursday.

The Hornets picked up their third win of the season and second Big Sky Conference win, behind senior forward Solape Amusan’s 18 points and four rebounds.

Both teams started the game slow, only scoring 12 points combined more than halfway through the first quarter. Amusan was the only Hornet knocking down shots, scoring her team’s first six points, but was sent to the bench early after picking up two quick fouls.

The Bengals were stuffing the paint and forcing Sac State to shoot, but the Hornets returned the favor and applied pressure defensively, forcing 10 steals in the game and five easy points on the break.

“I think we started a little bit slow,” Amusan said. “Idaho State kind of got the hang of what we were trying to do, but once we locked in on defense we just got a lot of momentum.”

The Hornets’ defense was sparked by Versteeg, who was fighting over screens and caging the Bengals’ guards as they tried to bring the ball upcourt.

“Defense is some of my specialty,” Versteeg said. “I’ll go in and just know what the person is doing.”

Along with four steals, Versteeg caught the attention of the Bengals’ defense. Despite the double teams, Versteeg stretched the floor with nine assists.

“It’s knowing their spots and where they are,” Versteeg said. “Some people just have those connections and I think our team is getting connected.”

Versteeg was the only Hornet able to cut the rim, allowing her to kick it out to shooters behind the arc. These open looks created off penetration that gave Sac State a nine-point lead into the break, knocking down their threes at a 42% clip.

After halftime, the Hornets came out swinging and expanded their lead to 15, halfway through the third.

Idaho State’s defense was in full scramble mode trying to stop a red-hot Hornets offense. The panic from the Bengals was on full display as they lunged at an open Amusan on the three-point line. She got the shot off and swished it, getting fouled in the process.

The Hornets leaned on Versteeg in the fourth, who kept finding ways to cut through the lane and assist her teammates on the kick outs, pushing her to a total of 13 points and nine assists for the game.

With just under 40-seconds left in the game, the Bengals had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but Versteeg stepped up defensively and ripped the ball away to secure the win for the Hornets.

Sac State head coach Aaron Kallhoff was thrilled about Versteeg’s effort and leadership after the game.

“She’s the first to the gym, putting in a lot of time, but also studies her gameplan,” Kallhoff said. “She’s my quarterback.”

RELATED: Sac State splits conference matchups in a pair of high-scoring affairs

Redshirt sophomore guard Benthe Versteeg surveys the court against the Weber State Wildcats Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 at The Nest. Versteeg had a Sac State Division I era single-game record of 14 assists. (Rinn Lee)

SATURDAY: Sac State: 75, Weber State: 44

A record-setting night by Versteeg on top of an outstanding defensive performance on Saturday at The Nest, spearheaded the Hornets’ biggest win of the season against the Weber State Wildcats.

Versteeg couldn’t help but share the ball, racking up a Sac State Division I era single-game record of 14 assists. Sac State’s floor general was constantly finding her teammates, demonstrating why she leads the Big Sky Conference in assists.

“We’ve grown so much and finding each other is so much easier,” Versteeg said. “We have shooters all over and if they help off of me it’s a kick-out and a three.”

Sac State started the game out on fire from beyond the arc, with nine of their first 13 points coming off three-pointers.

Throughout this run, the Hornets’ defense was all over the Wildcats, as they forced 24 turnovers in the game.

“Our focus is to protect the family and compete,” Kallhoff said. “I feel like our defense is starting to do that.”

This stout defensive play carried over to the second quarter where Weber State was held to just three field goals. Freshman forward Summah Hanson was a big part of this, contesting shots in the paint without fouling.

The Hornets only managed to score 11 points in the quarter, but seven came from Versteeg attacking the basket and knocking down a three-pointer. In addition to her all-time playmaking day, she matched her career high with 26 points.

“If they go under, I’ll pull up, if they go over, I’ll get a way to the rim because then I’ll have a mismatch with the center,” Versteeg said. “It’s all about knowing what I can do.”

Senior forward Daryn Hickock scored Weber State’s first eight points of the second half and was trading baskets with Versteeg and Hanson to keep the game in reach.

Four straight three pointers in the final minutes of the third quarter broke the game open for the Hornets, giving them a 25-point lead.

Sac State heavily capitalized off of turnovers in the third quarter, scoring 11 points off of the Wildcats’ miscues. In total, the Hornets scored 25 points off of Weber State’s turnovers.

The Hornets’ bench was buzzing going into the fourth quarter as their second straight win was in sight.

Versteeg and Hanson kept their foot on the gas with the duo combining for 14 of Sac State’s 23 fourth quarter points. Hanson finished the game with 19 points, which put her 22 points shy of breaking the program’s Division I era single-season freshman scoring record.

“We have so many people that are such threats on the offensive end that it makes scoring for yourself a lot easier,” Hanson said.

The Hornets remained in control the rest of the way and subbed out their starters with just under two minutes remaining to an ovation from the home crowd.

This win improved the Hornets’ record to 3-9in the Big Sky Conference with only six games left until the Big Sky tournament.

“We’ve got four of the top five teams that we need to play in the next two weeks so we got some tests, but I think we’re starting to see what happens when we stay together,” Kallhoff said.

Sac State will look to build off of this momentum when they travel to Flagstaff, Arizona to take on the first place Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Thursday at 5 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Adam Camarena
Adam Camarena, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Adam Camarena is a fourth-year transfer student majoring in journalism and in his first semester at The State Hornet. He was previously an editor for Cosumnes River College's publication, The Connection, and a broadcast journalist at Long Beach State. His career goal is to become a sports media member.
Jahson Nahal
Jahson Nahal, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Jahson Nahal is a graduating journalism major who is in his second semester as a sports staffer for The State Hornet. Previously, he was the sports editor for The American River College Current. He hopes to work in the sports media industry one day.
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