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Tiger women take time off to recover

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University women's basketball team had a rare Saturday off last week. Coach Tony Hobson said the time away brought some positives and negatives after a tough 63-60 home loss to Washburn University on Thursday. The defeat was FHSU's third straight loss and dropped Fort Hays to 10-3 overall, 2-3 MIAA.

Had Fort Hays played Saturday, junior forward Tera Ingalsbe likely would not have been available after she twisted her knee against Washburn.

Senior guard Melissa Nelson, who has fought knee issues in the past, tweaked her knee again. Hobson said Nelson "might have been slowed" Saturday.

"Those are good things," Hobson said in his weekly news conference Monday. "Just to recover. It was a real physical game, and kids played some heavy minutes, so in that respect, it was fine to have a day off and reflect a little bit. Otherwise, you would just rather get back in the saddle and try to get a win under your belt and take away a little bit of the sting."

On Wednesday, FHSU plays host to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University (6-8, 1-5 MIAA) at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Start time is 5:30 p.m. SBU is the first MIAA opponent for the Tigers in the lower tier of the conference.

The five teams Fort Hays has played in conference are at least 7-6 overall and 2-3 in MIAA play.

"We were expecting to get some wins here and not three losses in a row," junior Katelyn Edwards said. "But I think that we have a good group of seniors that are good leaders, and I don't think they will let our team fall apart."

Junior forward Jacqui Zelenka, a key player for the Bearcats since her freshman year, leads SBU with 11.8 points and ranks third in the league with 9.3 rebounds. Fort Hays has won five straight versus SBU in Hays. Every win has come by at least nine points.

FHSU, No. 10 in the country two weeks ago, now sits in a tie for eighth in conference play. In all three losses, especially Washburn, Fort Hays either led in the second half or was behind by three points late.

"We made a few mistakes at key times, but it's in our head now that there is no reason now that we can't beat them," Hobson said. "If it happens the other way (and Washburn wins by a big margin), then you have those doubts about whether you can compete with them. A loss is a loss, but I would rather be in the game until the end and have a chance to win it than the other way around even though it hurts a little more immediately afterwards."

For the most part, Fort Hays has struggled offensively in the last three games. Senior point guard Kaiameka Brown is 5 of 26 with 14 points and a 3/5 assist/turnover ratio in the losses. Brown has had some trouble with other point guards, including Washburn's Laura Kinderknecht, who collected MIAA Player of the Week honors. Hobson wants Brown to play a "little bit freer" and not be "so regimented" in her game.

"She is having a hard time scoring it," Hobson said. "She is not shooting the ball very well right now. She is, with some of our other kids, she is not getting it done as well as we would like at times, but her attitude remains good. She understands it. She is trying to get it done right, and she is working hard everyday."

Sophomore center Kate Lehman ranks second in the MIAA in scoring (17.3 points per contest), fourth in rebounding (9.1) and first in blocks (4.5). She missed two free throws with six seconds left that would have tied the Washburn game. Lehman normally has a perpetual smile and gregarious personality, but was clearly upset after the game and quickly left the locker room after the usual postgame team meeting.

"She has been fine," Hobson said. "She will get over it. Like I said, the kids took it really hard, because sometimes when it's right there within your grasp and then it's taken from you and you can't finish it off, it's a tough thing to swallow. So, I think she will be fine. She had a good practice yesterday. We didn't practice Saturday. I look for her to maybe play with a little more resolve than she has."