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Tiger women fall

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

For years, Washburn University women's basketball team has built a top-10 program behind a defense that annually makes it difficult for opponents to score more than 60 points. The Lady Blues have long been ranked among NCAA Division II's elite in scoring defense and rebounding margin. This winter, Washburn, led by its defense and senior point guard Laura Kinderknecht, has crafted another terrific season.

On Saturday, Fort Hays State University lost 61-41 to Washburn at Lee Arena. It marked the fewest points the Tigers have scored since a 78-34 loss to Washburn in 2006-07.

The Tigers, receiving votes in the national poll, and ranked No. 10 in the Central Regional rankings, dropped their 10th straight in Topeka, and fell to 18-6, 10-6 MIAA.

Washburn, ranked No. 5 nationally and No. 1 regionally, swept the season series versus FHSU and moved to 21-3 overall, 15-1 MIAA.

"They have always been a good defensive team," Tiger coach Tony Hobson said. "They are hard to score on."

The Tigers saw their six-game winning steak end, while Washburn pushed its winning streak to 10. The Lady Blues moved to 14-0 at home this year.

Fort Hays shot 21 percent from the field and went 0 of 12 from behind the arc.

"Always up in you with good help side," said senior guard Traci Keyser, who had made 10 treys in the previous three games. "We've just got to be able to counter that. I was covered a lot, but I need to be making better cuts. There are things that I need to improve on."

Sophomore center Kate Lehman paced the team with 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting; outside of her, the Tigers finished 4 of 34 from the field.

"We had a hard time getting the ball to go in early in the game and we got a little leery of taking open shots," Hobson said. "You start questioning how you should shoot it, and then you don't shoot well. Just offensively, we had a hard time getting anything going other than in the post."

Since joining the MIAA before the 2006-07 season, FHSU has never scored more than 60 points in Topeka, including games with 34, 45 and 42 points. This season, Washburn ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense and hasn't allowed more than 60 points since it beat FHSU 63-60 on Jan. 10.

Hobson said shots "were harder to come by" for the Tigers than the first meeting. In addition, Hobson credited Washburn's scouting and switching "way more screens" than the Jan. 10 meeting. Unlike some other squads, Washburn didn't double team inside against Lehman.

"I've always though that the way teams get better during the season is not necessarily offensively," Hobson said. "Maybe execute a little bit better, but I've always thought that teams can get better defensively clear until the complete end of the season.

"You can kind of see the good teams doing that," he added. "I think Washburn is a perfect example of a team just gradually getting a little bit better defensively. I thought they were way better defensively than the first time we played them."

Kinderknecht paced the Lady Blues with 18 points. Several times, the Tigers lost her in transition or in the half court on long 3-pointers. She finished with three assists and found open teammates on cuts to the basket that led to wide-open layups.

"It's frustrating," Keyser said. "We knew what she was going to do, and we talked about it and we worked on it this week, and it just didn't happen. That's one of the frustrating parts. We've just got to keep learning from each other and being coachable."

FHSU closes the regular season with two home games next week, the first Wednesday against Missouri Western State University.