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FHSU, Washburn women look to bounce back

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

In addition to the year's first two losses last week, the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team has several obstacles and challenges. That includes some offensive fundamental problems that coach Tony Hobson has focused on the last few days, stronger point guard play, and better 3-point shooting.

On Thursday, the Tigers, 10-2 (2-2 MIAA) will host Washburn University (8-2, 2-0 MIAA) at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Start time is 5:30 p.m. Both squads dropped out of the top-10 in the latest poll released Tuesday. Washburn is at No. 12, while Fort Hays stands at No. 18.

"We just have to make sure we don't get so down on ourselves and on the situation that we quit playing," Hobson said. "There is still so much season to go. We are one good game away from being back in the saddle. It's way, way too early to hit any panic button."

Senior guard Laura Kinderknecht leads the Lady Blues with 15.7 points per contest, fourth-best in the conference, while senior Tiara George is at 13.3 points per game and leads the conference in field goal percentage (64.6). Senior guard Dana Elliott is fourth in the MIAA with four assists a contest.

"Their point guard is a real good player," Hobson said, referring to Kinderknecht, who ranks second in the league in minutes played per game. "Good 3-point shooter, shooting about 40 percent."

In losses to Northeastern (Okla.) State University and Emporia State University, Fort Hays tallied 44 and 54 points, its two lowest point totals of the year.

"We have a really tough game against Washburn," sophomore center Kate Lehman, the team's leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, said. "We are going to put these behind us and move on. We don't really have another choice besides to do that, so that's what we are going to do, and we will come back strong."

FHSU shot 29 percent against Northeastern and 30 percent versus Emporia. Lehman collected 32 points in the two contests, while junior Katelyn Edwards collected 25.

However, no one - save Lehman's 25 points against ESU - has shot well. Senior guard Kaiameka Brown is 4 of 20 the last two contests.

"Frankly, Kai's play on this last road trip wasn't very good," Hobson said. "She has got to pick it up and she has got to pressure the ball better and she will have her hands full with (Washburn's) point guard."

Senior guard Melissa Nelson is 3 of 13, while senior guards Kelsie Sorenson and Traci Keyser haven't made a field goal in the last two contests.

"I think a few of us are realizing the difference between attacking a good team defense versus having somebody guard you, and you can five individuals guarding your five individuals, and really nobody can match up with us that way," Hobson said. "Kate Edwards will get you to the basket every time. Mel will get you to the basket every time if it's 1-on-1, but against a team defense, where they are sitting back and waiting for you, now all of a sudden, we are having to adjust and we are not doing a very good job of getting each other shots."

In Hobson's eyes, one reason why Emporia defeated Fort Hays was because the Hornets executed and adjusted. ESU had trouble scoring in the post, so found other ways to score. In the second half, Emporia double-teamed Lehman, but Fort Hays couldn't find another way to score.

"We are not getting shots out of our offense unless it's through the post," Hobson said. "We are doing OK on executing it and putting it into Kate and letting her go, but as far as anything else, our cuts are weak, our screens are weak, our passes aren't on time or on target and you've got to have all three of those things when you are trying to execute."

Fort Hays has struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 25.9 percent from long range this year.

The Tigers are 5 of 33 from 3-point range in the two losses. Keyser, tied for fifth all-time in Tiger history with 108 made treys, is 0 of 9 the last tree games. Keyser played five minutes against ESU and didn't start for the first time this season. Sorenson started in her place; Hobson said Sorenson probably could start again Thursday, but hadn't made a decision as of Monday.

"I had been thinking about changing things up for awhile and sometimes it helps the player out by changing their role a little bit, too, and maybe bringing them off the bench," Hobson said. "Sometimes you can shake something loose. With Traci, she hadn't been playing up to her standards lately. ... It's not any one thing."