The Hornets were vintage Sacramento State and a young, thin Montana women’s basketball team could do little to slow them down Thursday night at The Nest in Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento State hit 12 3-pointers, forced 25 turnovers and hustled its way to 26 offensive rebounds as the Hornets defeated the Lady Griz for the second time this season and for the fourth consecutive time at The Nest, 99-69.
The loss snapped a modest two-game winning streak for Montana (5-20, 2-12 BSC) and ended a four-game slide for Sacramento State (9-15, 5-8 BSC), which scored its second-highest point total of the season.
It was the most points allowed by Montana since giving up 100 to the Hornets in a 100-83 loss in 2009-10.
“This is always a tough place to play and a tough team to play against,” said UM coach Shannon Schweyen. “You hope you’re the tougher, stronger team and come out on top, but it wasn’t our night.”
After falling behind by 10, 14-4, in the opening minutes, Montana fought its way back into the game and twice cut its deficit to a single point.
Gabi Harrington made it 16-15 with 2:04 left in the first quarter, and Rachel Staudacher pulled Montana within 29-28 early in the second, but a lightning-quick 19-5 run, sparked by three 3-pointers, gave Sacramento State a comfortable margin it would hold the rest of the game.
The Hornets led 52-39 at the half and by as many as 29 points in the third quarter. Montana cut its deficit to 15 points, 79-64, midway through the fourth, but it was all Hornets down the stretch.
“They wear you down. That’s what they do, and unfortunately we’re not that deep right now,” said Schweyen. “They make you work hard all 40 minutes. I think the girls got tired and worn out.”
Montana shot just 38.8 percent to become just the second team this season not to shoot at least 40 percent against the Hornets, who entered the game allowing 50.2 percent, the worst mark in the nation.
That was part of the problem. The other, more frustrating part was the rebounding.
Sacramento State typically gets outrebounded by seven boards per game. Against the Lady Griz the Hornets were +14, finishing with a 59-45 advantage, with 26 of those coming on the offensive end, where effort makes the difference. Those led to 24 second-chance points. It only felt like twice as many.
“It felt like every 50-50 ball that was getting batted around, they came up with,” said Schweyen. “And then it just snowballs on you. They are too good of a team to give second chances to.
“We just got our butts kicked on the boards tonight, and that was a huge factor.”
Maranne Johnson led Sacramento State with 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Margaret Huntington led the starters with an almost flawless night: 15 points on perfect shooting from the field and free throw line, 17 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, three steals.
“She singlehandedly killed us in the key. We needed to have a body on her. She’s just a beast on the boards, and that killed us,” said Schweyen.
Montana, which had a season-high 25 turnovers, eight more than the first meeting against Sacramento State, shot 35.3 percent in the third quarter, then, with the tank nearly on empty, went 4 for 16 in the fourth.
The only reason the Hornets didn’t blow past 100 was because they were 0 for 9 from 3-point range in the fourth.
“The girls just weren’t strong against the traps, and you have to be strong and confident and in the right places all the time,” said Schweyen.
“We came down and kept taking rushed shots, because they double you and don’t let you run anything.”
Taylor Goligoski finished with 18 points, Hailey Nicholson added 11 off the bench, and Big Sky Conference Player of the Week McKenzie Johnston totaled nine points, six rebounds and a season-high 11 assists against only one turnover in 36 minutes.
“One turnover in 36 minutes against these guys is pretty impressive,” said Schweyen. “And they were in her shorts all night, double-teaming her and making her give it up.”
Montana will play at Portland State (11-14, 5-8 BSC) on Saturday at 3 p.m. (MT). The Vikings upset Montana State 69-65 on Thursday to knock the Bobcats out of first place.
First place once again belongs to Northern Colorado and North Dakota, who are 12-2 in league. North Dakota won at home over Idaho State, 63-56, Northern Colorado won at home against Weber State, 86-62.