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FHSU women move to 5-0

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The tallest player on the court for NAIA Tabor College was 5-foot-11 on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum. So it's fair to say Kate Lehman had a decisive size advantage at 6-foot-4 for the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team.

Precise passing and a five-inch height advantage helped Lehman to 22 points and 11 rebounds in an 86-51 win over Tabor (3-5) in the Tigers' final tune up before MIAA play begins Thursday at No. 5 Central Missouri.

"A size advantage and my teammates put the ball right where it needed to go in my hands. I had a couple of lob passes that were right there and I could lay them up," Lehman said.

"I thought we passed the ball real well tonight. We had good teamwork and I thought our defense was decent. Not as good as it could have been but it was definitely better than it has been."

The Tigers, who were averaging 98.8 points per game over their first four games, weren't worried about being able to score against Tabor. The focus was on the defense, which struggled in a 114-86 win over Newman University on Tuesday.

FHSU (5-0) held Tabor to 43.8 percent from the field and didn't allow a player to score in double digits. The Tigers forced the Bluejays into 26 turnovers with only 12 assists.

"I was hoping to sure up our defense a little bit and correct some things that we've repeatedly been doing wrong on that end of the floor," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "They had some very solid guards and wing players and set a lot of on the ball perimeter screens. I thought as a rule we did a good job of defending those and defending their cutters."

FHSU started slow, trailed 6-2 and only led 12-11 at the 13:30 mark of the first half. But a 30-11 run to end the half gave the Tigers a 42-22 halftime lead.

Lehman had 12 points and seven boards at the break.

"I think we did a good job of getting it into her because she was facing a double team most of the time, and sometimes the double team was there before the pass was even made and those are hard passes to make," Hobson said. "We are going to need Kate to score against these better teams because that's just how it's going to be. It's going to be more half court, less fast break stuff."

FHSU outscored Tabor 44-29 in the second half to get to 5-0 on the season. The Tigers are averaging a 40.2 average margin of victory, and Saturday's 35-point margin of victory was the second worst through five games.

But most of this came against weaker competition, and the Tigers know it will be a whole different ball game against Central Missouri on Thursday. The Jennies were selected as the preseason favorite to win the MIAA.

"When I think of Central Missouri I think of last March and how mad I was ... last year we beat them by 45 the first time and then played them and lost in overtime to go to the conference championship game," Lehman said. "So we are pretty pumped to get some revenge for that. It should be a really good game and I'm really excited for it."

Katelyn Edwards added 15 and Chelsea Mason had 11. Nikki Lewis and Tonisha Dean each led Tabor College with eight points.