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Lehman leads Tigers past Newman

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

The game didn't get off to pretty start for his squad, but Fort Hays State University women's basketball coach Tony Hobson was happy with how his team finished.

After shooting 4 of 12 from the free throw line and 32.4 percent from the field in the first half, FHSU (4-0) did what Hobson called the "dirty things" -- playing defense and rebounding -- to overcome its slow start and win 66-46 against Newman University on Tuesday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Newman dropped to 1-3.

"Those are the blue-collar things that you've got to do," Hobson said. "The offense is fun and it looks neat, but a lot of times, those other things will win games for you."

The Tigers outrebounded Newman 47 to 35 and forced 21 turnovers, outscoring Newman by 11 off turnovers and by two off second-chance opportunities.

"We try to spark everything through our defense," said FHSU senior guard Melissa Nelson, who shot just 3 of 10 but posted five steals. "It doesn't matter if you shoot 100 percent. If you can't stop them, you probably don't have a good chance of winning. Defense is probably going to save us a lot this season."

After struggling to score in the first half, FHSU repeatedly went to sophomore center Kate Lehman in the second half.

Lehman led the Tigers with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. She scored 15 in the second half.

"She had such an advantage in there at the post," Hobson said. "I thought we were missing her some in the first half. Part of that is our perimeter players' fault, and part of that is her fault.

"She wasn't just sitting there and posting. She was always moving around. A stationary target is way easier to get it to."

Junior small forward Katelyn Edwards posted 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and junior forward Tera Ingalsbe added 10 points.

The Tigers never trailed in the game, but they didn't take a commanding lead until they went on a 23-5 run midway through the second half.

In fact, FHSU led 26-20 at halftime despite having their worst offensive half of the season.

The Tigers, who had shot 73 percent from the free throw line heading to the game, were abysmal from the foul line the first half, making just 33 percent.

"Getting fouled is not a good deal if you're not making your free throws," Hobson said. "It's a total momentum crusher. Taking all of those things into consideration, being ahead at half, we were fortunate."

The Tigers found their offense through their defense in the second half, scoring 14 points off turnovers and 8 points via second-chance opportunities.

They also found their stroke from the free throw line, making 11 of 15 in the second half.

"Some nights (free throws) fall, and some nights they don't," Nelson said. "Tonight was not the night."

It was the Tigers' first regular season test after easily blowing away their first three NAIA opponents.

Hobson said that might have had something to do with his team's slow start.

"I think they knew this was going to be their biggest test to date, and I think they were pretty keyed up and just trying a little too hard," Hobson said. "They weren't relaxed."