During one five minute stretch in the first half of Sacramento State University’s 80-68 victory over Seattle University, 13 of the teams’ combined 18 shots were from three point land.
If the teams weren’t hoisting up threes in transition or early offense, they moved the ball around and found a three-point shooter later in the offense. It was a frenzied pace that had my photographer and I wondering if they were on pace for a record for three point attempts during our halftime chat.
It’s not exactly the type of game one might expect to see from two winless teams.
Yet for first year Sacramento State coach Jamie Craighead, it was all part of the plan. For last night at least, that plan worked and is part of what earned Craighead her first career win.
At the beginning of the season, Sacramento Bee reporter John Schumacher compared Craighead’s basketball philosophy to the style of Paul Westhead’s men’s teams at Loyola Marymount, who is now the women’s basketball head coach at the University of Oregon with Craighead’s predecessor as his assistant.
Coach stresses speed, scoring - Sacramento Bee
"I'm a big believer in everything is about putting points on the scoreboard," said Craighead, a former Hornets assistant who was elevated to the top job May 1 after Dan Muscatell left to become an assistant at Oregon.
"I want to score more points than our opponent. I didn't say stop our opponent. I said score more points."
Craighead's plans include full-court pressure and half-court traps to disrupt opponent's offenses.
"Our goal is to take the other opponent out of what they want to do," she said.
Her vision finally came to fruition last night in the Hornets' first win of the season.
The two teams combined for 62 three-point attempts (31 each) and while Sacramento (11) only made two more than SeattleU (9), the shootout had the effect of taking Seattle out of their game.
"We at least got 73 shots up today," said Craighead. "The other night we only shot 61. We’d like to shoot between 75 and 85 shots a game so we definitely got that done."
Although Seattle University forward Ashley Brown hit 4 of 8 threes in the first half and finished with a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds, it was not the type of game Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini wanted to play.
"For us, that’s way too many for us," said Bonvicini. "Too many for us. We need to execute offense better, be more patient."
Sacramento used a 10-minute 21-6 run early in the second half to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit. In keeping with Craighead’s philosophy, they simply overwhelmed the Redhawks with offense and then maintained their lead with late free throws.
"I thought that that huge comeback, we got that out of the way early," said Craighead of their second half comeback that got them a 62-60 lead on a Charday Hunt three-pointer with 7:46 left . "We had eight minutes to play and we held on. We really learned from the UNLV loss that we need to use the clock at the end, and it was a great performance from everybody. Everybody gave effort. Everybody contributed. It was a great win."
The great all-around effort is evident not only in the scoring distribution, but also the team’s rebounding.
Hunt led the way in scoring, but it was an all-around effort
Senior forward Charday Hunt was in a zone during the extended second half run. She helped the team pull ahead on a three, but also got to the free throw line for a pair of charity points, and continued hitting contested jumpshots with almost perfect form. She scored 11 of her team-high 22 points during the latter five minutes of the run. However, as Craighead described, it was a total team effort to get this first win.
The three-point production came primarily from junior forward Emily Christensen and senior forward Erika Edwards. The additional contributions from Christensen and Edwards throughout the game in addition to Hunt’s performance put a lot of pressure on the Redhawks’ defense.
Christensen finished with 20 points and led the team in the first half with 12 points on 4-7 three-point shooting. Edwards added three three-pointers and finished with 11 points.
"They got hot," said Bonvicini. "They got other shooters involved…And actually the majority of their shots were in transition; not necessarily layups but in transition where they reversed it and hit a quick jumper."
Both Christensen and Hunt finished with double-doubles with 11 and 10 rebounds respectively, while Edwards finished one rebound short of a double-double.
The strong rebounding performance from Sacramento’s forward trio is also indicative of a recurring problem for Seattle University – they have really struggled to keep opponents off the offensive boards and it ended up hurting them in the second half.
Although the two teams were even in offensive rebounding in the first half with five apiece, Sacramento grabbed 52% of the available rebounds in the second half with 14 and outrebounded Seattle University 34-20.
"We were up three in rebounds in the first half – then we got outrebounded by 11," said Bonvicini. "Outscored by 22 [points] in the second half – that’s not good."
Efficient point guard play was key
However, while three point shooting and rebounding really stood out in this game, point guard Tika Koshiyama-Diaz quietly put up one of the most well-rounded individual performances of the night.
"I needed something big from Emily (Christensen) and Tika (Koshiyama-Diaz) and they both stepped up," said Craighead.
Although Koshiyama-Diaz was less efficient from the three-point line than her teammates (1-5), she might have been the team MVP finishing with a well-rounded 14 points on 4-9 shooting, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 offensive rebounds in 28 minutes. As evidenced by her low turnover percentage of 5.3%, she made great decisions with the ball both finding her own scoring opportunities and setting up teammates. She had a two-point percentage of 75% and an assist ratio of 32%, both solid numbers for a point guard.
Reserve point guard Ashley Garcia also played well in the backcourt with a productive five assists and 2 turnovers in 20 minutes of play. 11 assists and three turnovers isn’t bad output from a team’s two lead ball handlers. The hot shooting combined with the strong playmaking from their backcourt was just too much for a Redhawks team after a difficult three-day tournament in the Purdue University Basketball Travelers Invitational tournament.
Disappointing home loss for Seattle University
"It’s hard when you play three games and really get one day to prepare," said Bonvicini. "But this is the hand I’m dealt. This is a tough hand. This is a really tough hand and I knew it but we can play better than this – we’re a better team than this."
While Ashley Brown’s hot three-point shooting allowed them to keep pace with Sacramento State in the first half, she went 1-6 from three point land in the second half, embodying the team’s shooting struggles in the second half: the Redhawks only shot 26.7% in the second half. Poor shooting, combined with being outrebounded and turning the ball over at a rate of 26% is not a winning formula for this team.
"We just didn’t execute second half," said Bonvicini. "We turned the ball over a little bit second half and missed free throws, missed layups. Losing’s gotta hurt. And right now we have got to decide -- you know we’re home – we have to take advantage of being at home."
They will have a chance to take advantage of their home court this weekend during the SeattleU Thanksgiving Tournament.
- Sacramento State will be staying in the area to participate in the University of Washington Husky Classic. They will play UW on Sunday at 2 pm.
- As it turns out, 62 combined threes is not a record. The NCAA record for three point attempts between both team is 75 in a 1999 game between Mississippi and Bowling Green. Nevertheless, the record does put 62 in perspective -- it's a lot of three point attempts.
- The University of Oregon is off to a 3-0 start with Westhead at the helm, but have only broken the threshold of 75 field goals in one game (at Montana). Having achieved success with his strategy in NCAA men’s basketball and the WNBA, it will be interesting to see how well it works in the NCAA women’s basketball over the course of this season.
- Free throw shooting is also still haunting the Redhawks: in the second half, they shot a discouraging 5-13 (38.5%) with forward Maggie McCarthy going 1-7. Meanwhile, Sacramento State shot 11-15 (73%), although many of those came near the end of the game when Seattle University was fouling just to stop the clock. Nevertheless, the large discrepancy in percentage accentuates the point that free throws made might matter more than free throws attempted when calculating free throw rate, one of Dean Oliver’s Four Factors.
- There were quite a few Sacramento State fans among the 211 in attendance last night, including a large contingent of supporters for Edwards, a local product who went to Redmond High School.
Hunt and Christensen Post Double-Doubles as Women's Basketball Secures First Win At Seattle
SeattleU Women’s Basketball Loses To Sacramento State, 80-68