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FHSU women in key home games

2/7/2012

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Coach Tony Hobson had a familiar refrain concerning his offense after the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team lost to Washburn University 75-55 on the road Saturday. FHSU shot 35 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. Hobson said the Tigers "couldn't get a 3 to fall when we needed it," and also noticed sophomore Katelyn Edwards, freshman center Kate Lehman and junior guard Kaiameka Brown missed several open looks.

The defeat encapsulated the Tigers' shooting woes, a slump that now has stretched for more than a month. Just twice in the last nine contests has FHSU shot more than 40 percent from the field. Only once in that span has Fort Hays made more than 35 percent of its 3-pointers. The stretch has produced 37.4 percent shooting, 25.4 percent 3-point shooting and a 3-6 record.

Fort Hays has averaged 67.6 points per game in that span, mainly due to the fact the Tigers lead the MIAA in free throw attempts per contest (24.4).

"It's frustrating, but they are going to start falling," Lehman said. "We are overdue for a game where shots fall."

On Wednesday, the Tigers (15-7, 7-7 MIAA) will play host to Truman State (Mo.) University (12-8, 7-8) in a 5:30 p.m. start at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

It's the first of four home games in the final six regular season contests. FHSU, fifth in the MIAA, will face four of the league's top-seven teams -- all at home.

"We have got six games we can win," Hobson said. "If we are not ready, we have got six games we can lose. It's still a lot up for grabs. Probably anything from third place to eighth place. We are probably going to fall in there somewhere. It's up to us where we end up."

In MIAA play, Fort Hays ranks fourth in the 11-team conference in scoring (67.4 points), but ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (29.1) and 10th in field goal shooting (37.8). Multiple reasons have caused the offensive problems, including personnel, individual players slumping, hesitation by the Tigers on taking shots and not working the ball inside effectively.

"I am still waiting and part of that is some of our better defenders and rebounders. ... aren't our best shooters," Hobson said. "It's good if your best shooters are able to rebound and defend too."

Junior Traci Keyser, the team's second-leading scorer at 10.5 points per contest, made 39.5 percent of her treys last year. This season, it's down to 29.9 percent.

Junior Melissa Nelson averages seven points a contest, and shoots 36 percent from the field (33 percent on treys).

But Nelson, who has struggled in some other facets, has seen her minutes drop in recent weeks. Senior Kimber Weiser has seen more minutes in the last six games. However, in that stretch, she has two games where she has scored at least eight points. In the other four contests, Weiser has 10 total points.

"The book is out on Traci," Hobson said. "They are going to play up on her and take away the shot and Mel hasn't been getting a lot of opportunity. One thing she can do is that she is a pretty good shooter. Kimber is a little off and on. She seems to either hit two or three 3s or none. So I guess we are just looking for a consistent way to score."

FHSU also has been hesitant to release the ball, partly because the Tigers have focused more on working inside to Lehman, who has averaged 15.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in the last 10 contests.

"I think a big thing right now, is we are being really hesitant," Lehman said. "We are not coming off ready to shoot. It will come though, it will come."

Even Lehman could finish at a higher rate. She shoots 48.4 percent from the field, a number that trails behind several of the conference's top post players, including Edwards, Pittsburg State University's Larissa Richards, University of Central Missouri's Nicole Caddell and Lincoln (Mo.) University's Vivian Essuon.

"We shoot a lot in practice," Lehman said. "Traci nails those shots in practice every day. Mel nails those shots in practice every day and they will start falling in games. I can't really criticize because I miss a lot of them, too. They will start falling. We know they will. We are just keeping that in the back of our mind."

At times, the Tigers haven't gotten the ball to Lehman in the correct places, either.

"We are not getting her the ball at the right times sometimes," Hobson said. "We'll throw it to her when she is still moving and unable to do anything with it. We will throw it to her when she is out of position. We will throw it to her late, so we are more like, let's get it to her on time when she is ready to do something with it instead of just launch it in there and have her out of position."

One person who could lead to some offensive improvement is Edwards, who leads the Tigers and ranks third in the conference at 15.4 points per game. Edwards sank 3-of-4 treys against Washburn after she was 2-of-12 on 3s in the first 21 games. Hobson believes Edwards can shoot 35 percent on 3s, much higher than the team average.

"She has played enough basketball, she knows whether it is a good shot or not and I have told her, if you are going to take them, just don't hesitate," Hobson said. "Just catch and stroke it. If you are not going to take it, don't second guess yourself. She has got to do that to make them honor her a little bit, so she can drive it."


Scoreboard
Sport Date Opponent Score
2/18 SW Baptist L 66-53
12/1 Oklahoma - Panhandle L 66-60 (OT)