Starters Ashley Cadotte, a junior guard, center Katelyn Ciampi, another junior, Black, sophomore Kim Sheehy and junior guard Cindy Alldrin rested early and often – Black's 27 minutes on the floor was the most any Hornet player spent in action, followed by Brown at 26. Tech suppressed Sacramento State efficiently all night, with no Hornet earning more than the eight points or gathering in more than the five rebounds credited to Brown.
After the game Tech head coach Marsha Sharp said the Lady Raiders had taken the opportunity to expand their defensive repertoire in preparation for conference play. "We played a little more zone than we usually do, and we tried to press a little more."
Acknowledging a rough-edged performance in the early going, she said the team had tried adding some different sets on offense. "We were a little ragged because of that, but we hope it will smooth out by the time we get to Oklahoma next week."
Those new offensive plays are meant to confound the junk defenses Sharp expects to see against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, as well as give Tech a four-shooter perimeter in case of need against conference opponents, she said. "There are a few teams in the Big 12 where we may need that extra shooter on the floor."
En route to the win over Sacramento State senior center Cisti Greenwalt earned 19 points – a game high – during an impressive 28-minute performance that found her leading Tech's post game to a 52-point total.
"Our post players really performed tonight," Sharp said. "They did a good job on both ends." In addition to soundly whipping the Hornets in the paint by 52-08, Tech's rebounding improved throughout the game; they finished with 57 boards as a team, while allowing Sacramento State to take the ball away only 32 times.
Although Tech gave up eight points off turnovers, the Lady Raiders garnered 15; in the first half Lady Raiders committed only seven turnovers, but in the second half possession changed hands 11 more times for a total of 18; the Hornets had a dozen turnovers in the first half but only 10 in the second. Sacramento State scored a single second-chance bucket in the game, while Tech sank 15 points on second chances, and the Lady Raiders collected a dozen points off the fast break while giving up only two.
Greenwalt earned player-of-the-game honors. Starters LaToya Davis, who missed only one field goal attempt all night while collecting eight boards, and junior classmate Chesley Dabbs, who retrieved a total of seven rebounds to tie freshman forward Darrice Griffin, also finished in double figures with 10 and 15 points respectively. Griffin finished with nine points including three of four free throws, and added a block in her 14 minutes of play.
Tech's standout freshman guard Judith Smith poured in 12 more points from the bench including two of five from beyond the arc; sophomore starter Alesha Robertson finished with nine points and five boards to go with three steals – and although she tried nine times to sink a three-pointer, not once did she succeed.
Dabbs hit one of three from downrange; junior Erin Grant, who had seven assists, two rebounds and two points, missed the only trey she tried. Sophomore Brooke Baughman missed two from the perimeter, two from inside, and one of two from the free-throw line, but finished the game with one point, five assists, and a steal in 18 minutes of solid work – part of the time relieving Grant at the point, part of the time relieving Dabbs on the wing. Seeing her work with Robertson, Grant, and Smith in the game was a treat in the second half – she had her choice of passing targets as well as getting the occasional open look of her own. It was not a high-scoring night for sophomores; Tech's pair combined for 10 points, while Hornets Sheehy and Stephanie Cherry managed a total of eight.
Grant and Baughman each contributed three turnovers to the 18 the Lady Raiders gave away; Sacramento State surrendered 22 turnovers, led by Alldrin, who had five. Alldrin finished the game with seven points and four boards, one assist and two steals.
The Hornets attempted 60 shots from the field and sank 13, yet their perimeter shooting was better than the Lady Raiders' – indeed, often the threes appeared to be the only thing going right for the out-powered, out-rebounded, out-run and badly outgunned California visitors as they completed four of 17 from downrange for 12 points. Tech finished the game with three of 20 from beyond the arc, but had a huge shooting advantage in the first half, converting 20 of 36 attempts while Sacramento State got just seven shots to fall in 25 tries. Three of those were three-point goals, which kept the halftime deficit to only 45-20.
In the second half Tech plugged that weakness in its defense and held the Hornets to one of 11 from the perimeter. Sacramento State suffered several scoring droughts during the game and fell victim to the shot clock more than once despite freshman guard Ali Mollett's best efforts. The careful passing game Sacramento State brought with it sometimes ran afoul of Tech's longer reach; in particular, Davis turned up in the passing lanes with uncanny precision. Credited with two steals officially, Davis altered several other passes, especially at critical junctions in the early going.
Yet the Hornets would not quit, despite trailing all night. Brown and Black drove the offense with patience rather than frustration; Cherry and Sheehy ran hard into the middle and out to the corners on the strong side at both ends, looking for openings.
Tech's defense had no holes to provide, whether the defenders in question were Dabbs or Griffin, freshman post Erin Myrick or veteran forward Davis. Nor did holes appear when the Hornets faced either Tech's smaller lineup -- although backup guard Baughman collected a foul the crowd clearly felt she didn't deserve when she went tearing down the court one on one against Alldrin with 7:18 to go – or Greenwalt, who blocked five shots during the contest and stole the ball three times.
A highlight film surely would have featured Smith, who seemed to float above the floor on wings – and her passes no longer surprise her targets, as she proved with a textbook assist to Myrick with just over three minutes left in the first half. Deceptively composed, the California native brings another level of magnitude to athleticism – and she has expanded her skills defensively.
"Defense is something she had to make a decision about," Sharp said. "She's worked hard to make the defensive side of her game as good as her offense. She makes plays for us, and sometimes that creates a shot for her, sometimes creates a shot for another of our players ... I thought that pass to Cisti at the end of the first half was a great look. She's great at breaking down defenses."
Mollett fouled Myrick, who sank her first free throw; a lane violation on the next one gave Tech back the ball to go with a 38-16 lead and Smith promptly scored off the inbounds pass with 2:22 remaining.
A play later she elevated into press row saving the ball back to Robertson, then answered Brown's two-point bucket with a trey to make the score 43-18. At the other end, Smith found herself alone after a miss by Ciampi; with no help, Smith couldn't prevent Brown's score. Tech took a timeout with 22.1 in the half and a 43-20 lead; Baughman sent an inbounds to Smith, who lofted a pass inside to Greenwalt for a backdoor bucket just before the buzzer.
During halftime, a troupe of tiny gymnasts charmed the crowd with feats of flexibility including hands-free cartwheels and double backwards rolls. Many of their moves drew more response from the 11,000-plus spectators than had the first half of the game; through the second half, the audience remained unusually restrained.
Tech had played hard but without its usual finesse during the first half; the starters returned to the floor for both teams. Robertson's inbound to Grant came right back, but the ball was stripped and Sheehy set up for a three. She missed; a scrum ensued and Greenwalt had the ball knocked out of her hands. Tech sent it back in and the confusion continued until Dabbs sank a long shot with 17:44 remaining.
Davis stole the ball and Robertson put up another three; Smith swapped in to relieve her after the miss and Davis sent Dabbs a picture-perfect assist. When Alldrin's effort went awry on the next play, Davis snatched a rebound and collected a lay-up on the other end, raising the score to 51-23. Nothing the Hornets tried brought them closer; Greenwalt scored, Alldrin missed, the rebound went into a tie, and Smith got a hand on the next shot. Sacramento State called time, down by 30, to regroup.
It didn't work: Lindsey Heard missed, but Greenwalt didn't. Ashley Cadotte collected a foul, putting the ball in Dabbs' hands for two more; when Brown missed Davis grabbed the board, and then reversed the earlier play by sending a sizzling pass to Dabbs, who caromed it to Greenwalt for another bucket underneath. Cadotte fouled Greenwalt, who hit the free throw; on the next play, Davis fouled, but Lindsay Calmettes lost the ball out of bounds. A series of misfires on both ends followed, ending with Calmettes fouling Smith, who hit both free throws. Ciampi answered with a bucket on the other end but by then the 62-25 game was well out of Hornet reach.
"We knew we had to work on a few things, like being more physical," Greenwalt said after the game. "We have to get used to drawing the contact and playing through, whether we're going up and making the three point play or running the floor."
Davis added, "It's very important for us to develop our inside game" for matchups against Texas and Baylor in conference play. "Like Cisti said, we've got to be physical and finish our shots, and make three-point plays."
Coach Sharp addressed the perimeter shooting from a positive point of view to finish the post game statements. "We just didn't shoot (the three) great, but there were two things I thought we did well. First, we played pretty well and second, we continued to shoot it. I told Alesha (Robertson) that I don't care if she goes oh-and-fifteen; I want her to shoot that sixteenth time. I have that much confidence in her, and everyone on this team has that confidence in her. I told her to just forget about tonight … and shoot it again Sunday afternoon. She's going to get open, and when she gets the ball in her hands and she's open she's going to shoot, and she's going to hit (threes). We know it."
Tech next plays Idaho State at home January 2nd at 2 p.m. The Bengals are currently 5-5 and face 7-2 Wyoming Thursday at home after a nine-day rest.