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Tiger women better against MIAA field

2/15/2012

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Last season, a Fort Hays State University women's basketball team which relied heavily on the 3-point shot collected home victories against Washburn University and Northwest Missouri State University. Those two teams were each ranked in the top-25 nationally, and the only two MIAA squads that reached the NCAA Division II tournament.

However, Fort Hays finished ninth because the Tigers had trouble with the lower and middle pack squads. That included a road loss to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University, the conference's 10th place team, and two defeats versus Truman State (Mo.) University, the MIAA's eighth place squad.

This winter, one reason for the Tigers' climb in the conference standings is FHSU has played better against the squads in the middle and lower part of the standings. Fort Hays is currently fifth in the league at 17-7, 9-7 MIAA. The Tigers are 8-2 against teams below them in the standings.

With four games left in the regular season, FHSU has two contests versus squads ranked below it in the standings and two games against top-four teams. First, Fort Hays will travel to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University and Missouri Southern State University on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The two teams are currently ninth and last in the 11-team league.

Next week, FHSU will finish with home contests Feb. 22 and Feb. 25 against Pittsburg State University and Emporia State University, teams that are first and third, respectively, in the league. Fort Hays is 1-5 against the top-four teams, though the Tigers have lost four of those five games by 11 points or fewer.

"You want to beat them all, but I think we are just a little more consistent than we have been," fourth-year coach Tony Hobson said. "Last year, we were a little more erratic. We got beat by anybody and we could beat anybody on a given night maybe because we were a little more perimeter-oriented. We still have a shot at a couple above us, which we are looking forward to, but you have to beat the majority of the teams below you to maintain your position."

Thursday's contest against SBU (9-14, 4-13 MIAA) starts at 5:30 p.m. in Bolivar, Mo. Fort Hays is 0-5 all-time at Southwest Baptist, and 5-1 versus the Bearcats in Hays, including a 64-55 victory Jan. 7.

"Never have went in there with a very good team," Hobson said. "That's why we struggle there, I would think. Again, it's a long road trip, and I think they play a lot better at home. I know two years ago, we were in a good position to win a game there. ... I think anywhere in our conference it's hard to win on the road, because just the level of play and you probably have to be 15 points better to beat them on the road, really."

Last week, Fort Hays solidified its position for a top-five spot and continued to contend for an NCAA tournament berth. The first South Central Regional rankings are due out later today; top-eight in the region reach the NCAA Division II tournament. The MIAA could likely receive four bids to the tournament this season. Last Wednesday, the Tigers beat Truman State (Mo.) University. At the time, Truman was directly behind FHSU in the standings.

Last Saturday, Fort Hays put together a complete effort in a win versus Central Missouri, the fourth-place team in the league. Fort Hays still remains a game and a half back of Central Missouri for fourth place. A loss against Central would have given FHSU slim chances to move into the top four by the end of the year.

"We knew we had to have these, so the kids were really focused and I was happy with the way we played," Hobson said.

Sophomore Katelyn Edwards and freshman center Kate Lehman continue to produce at a high rate for the Tigers. Edwards averages 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest, each team-highs. Lehman is up to 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game and has a school record 77 blocks, fifth-best in the country.

"Katelyn is such a slasher and then (Lehman) has turned into a heck of a force on both ends of the floor this year," Central Missouri coach Dave Slifer said.

"She has just made unbelievable strides. We are ready to put her in the Big 12. We would like to tip off a couple Big 12 teams. They could have used her."


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