Sacramento State battles, but falls short against Santa Clara, 70-65

Paula Haw takes a tough shot against Santa Clara. Sac State Athletics photo.

Despite fighting valiantly for their first win, Sacramento State fell just short of upsetting Santa Clara, who prevailed 70-65 Wednesday.

The Broncos started the game on a quick 7-0 run, but the Hornets battled back with a tough zone defense, forcing their opponents to shoot from the outside, and only trailed 20-15 after one. 

Sac State continued their strong play in the second quarter, with defense in outside shooting, and trailed 30-29 at the half. Solape Amusan came off the bench to lead the charge with nine points; both the Hornets and the Broncos hit six threes in the first half.

“We did a great job playing together and spacing the floor,” Sac State coach Aaron Kallhoff said.

The Hornets came out hot in the second half, shooting 64 percent from the field, and outrebounding their opponents, 11-2. They got 10 points from their bench and six points from Benthe Versteeg to take a 49-45 lead into the final frame.

Sac State then hit two straight threes by Amusan and Summah Hanson. In the middle of the quarter, the Broncos went on 8-0 run to tie the game at 55, with 5:09 left. The run turned into a 17-0 run for Santa Clara.

After going down 64-55, the Hornets answered back with an 8-0 run to cut the Broncos lead down to one, 64-63 with 1:30 left. Oliva Pollerd hit three to give Santa Clara the 70-65 advantage, and close out the game.

Amusan led Sac State with 18 points – all of which came from the three-point line. Versteeg added 16 points and 10 assists. Hanson added 14 points and seven rebounds.

As a team, the Hornets shot a season-high .568 from the field — its highest since last year’s team hit 60 percent of its shots at Northern Colorado on Jan. 12 — while the 12 makes from beyond the arc was the most since they hit 13 against Portland State at home in on Feb. 27 in last year’s regular-season finale.

Sac State did not shoot lower than 50 percent in any quarter on Wednesday, including shooting just over 64 percent (9 of 14) in the third period alone.

They did a good job keeping Santa Clara’s Tess Heal in check in the first three quarters before she exploded with 11 points in the fourth. She finished with 13, while Pollerd had 22 and Marya Hudgins had 12 points. The team also hit 15 three-pointers.

The Hornets are still winless at 0-6, but their defense, their fight and their willinlgness to share the ball bode well for the rest of the season.

“We need to cut down on turnovers, play to our principles in our defense, and know personnel,” Kallhoff added.