The Fort Hays State women's basketball team showed Friday it doesn't necessarily need a lights-out shooting night in order to put up a big offensive outing.
FHSU went through an up-and-down night from the field, shooting 40 percent, but the No. 12-ranked Tigers managed to put up points in a variety of ways to open the season with a 91-56 win over Southwest Minnesota State in the MIAA-NSIC Challenge at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Junior guard Kacey Kennett led the way, matching her career high with 20 points to lead five Tigers in double figures as FHSU showed off its balance and depth.
“It’s really nice,” Kennett said of the depth. “You can play with everything you’ve got and you know that someone’s going to come in and back you up and play outstanding. I think that’s really cool about this team is that we have so much depth that if someone is off, someone is going to get subbed in and it might be their night."
It was apparent early that it was shaping up to be Kennett's night, with the Olathe product putting up 15 points in the first half.
“I thought Kacey in the first half, she was really good — as good as I’ve seen her,” Fort Hays coach Tony Hobson said. “She’s a good player. She’s so solid and she does a little bit of everything. She can shoot it at times. She’s a little streaky but she can hit the outside shot. She’s a good rebounder. She can kind of do it all. I was really happy for her."
Kennett ended her sophomore year strong for the Tigers, putting up 20 points in FHSU's NCAA Tournament opener against Southwestern Oklahoma State and going for 17 in a season-ending loss to Central Missouri in the second round.
“I just try to get in the gym and get more shots up,” Kennett said. “Just trying to be more consistent from the three. When you can hit threes that opens up the lane."
Hobson said it was a productive first game for the Tigers, who were in control most of the way, leading 22-17 at the end of the first quarter, 47-32 at halftime and 65-51 at the end of the third, despite SMSU putting together a few runs throughout the night.
FHSU pulled away with a 26-5 frame in the fourth.
“I thought it was a good, kind of entertaining game for the first game,” Hobson said. “They were a good opponent. They’re solid and have some good players.”
FHSU connected on 28 of 70 shots from the filed and were 10 of 27 from 3-point range while going 25 of 33 from the foul line. SMSU went 18 of 61 from the floor and 9 of 28 from beyond the arc.
Hobson said the Tigers had to adjust to the Mustangs' man-to-man defense after expecting a zone.
“I thought it was very good for us because I prepared them the last two or three days for nothing but zone. We ran very little man offense," Hobson said. "I knew that they would maybe press, so we were ready for that, but maybe not quite that intense. I thought it was nice to make our players just kind of adjust on the fly.”
Fort Hays senior forward Tatyana Legette notched a double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, going 9 of 12 from the foul line. Junior forward Belle Barbieri added 12 points while senior guard Carly Heim and freshman guard Hailey Walker each had 11.
“(Legette) just plays with a lot of energy and I thought she played hard,” Hobson said. “I told them, ‘You guys made some interesting plays out there that I didn’t like, but one thing I cannot fault any one of you on is your effort.’ They played hard, one through fourteen. If we can just maintain that effort and intensity, we’ll be fine."
Guards Lanie Page and Taylor Rolfs fought through off-shooting nights, going a combined 2 for 17 from the field, but Hobson said they found other ways to help out, noting that Page finished with five assists.
“Lanie and Taylor are maybe our two best shooters,” Hobson said. “In practice they’ll make as many or more threes than anybody. They both were a little off on their outside shot but they find other ways to contribute. … Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the basket, you have to play through that and find another way to contribute. I thought we had a lot of kids do that.”
Fort Hays will close out the MIAA-NSIC Challenge against Upper Iowa at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Peacocks fell 67-58 to Missouri Western in the first game Friday.