Tiger women in slump against top tier
By CONOR NICHOLL
So far in 2013, the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team has produced a 1-4 record against mostly upper tier MIAA opponents. The slide took the Tigers, ranked No. 10 in NCAA Division II a few weeks ago, out of the national rankings released Tuesday. The Tigers are still receiving votes.
Part of the reason is the lack of a Tiger offense that had averaged 79.8 points per game in the first 10 contests against non-conference teams and the first part of league play. In the last five games, FHSU has scored 44, 54, 60, 64 and 48 points. In the last two contests, Fort Hays has lost by three points to Washburn University and Pittsburg State University, each ranked in the top 25.
"We've had shot after open shot that if in two games, just one of them goes in the last two or three minutes, we win the game," coach Tony Hobson said in his weekly news conference Tuesday. "Or we do get to the line and then we miss free throws."
They've shot 29, 30, 35, 38 and 24 percent from the field. In no contest have the Tigers made more than 30 percent of their 3s.
"It isn't anything that you have to change your offense or anything," Hobson said. "You have to do what you are still doing and just do it a little bit better. Not a lot, just a little bit better."
On Thursday and Saturday, Fort Hays (11-4, 3-4 MIAA) will travel to league newcomer Lindenwood (Mo.) University (4-11, 1-6 MIAA) and Truman State University (13-3, 6-2 MIAA). The Thursday contests start at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Hobson actually has become more positive with his team during the losses than he is during a winning streak. During a losing skid, Hobson always is worried a team is "losing their heart," and will "quit working hard." He hasn't seen that yet.
"I just think when you are 10-0, I think everybody is telling them how great they are, how nobody can beat you," Hobson said. "So I kind of go the other way. The last two weeks has been positive team-wise, and I don't think we have lost our heart at all. I think the Pitt game was evidence of that. ... We came back and played great at Pitt after the first few minutes."
Senior center Kate Lehman is second in the league in scoring at 16.6 points per game, but finished with four points on 2-of-15 shooting in Saturday's three-point loss at PSU. Junior Katelyn Edwards was 0 of 10 from the field, but made a pair of free throws to finish with two points.
"We are not getting very many easy baskets," Hobson said. "We are not getting near as many transition baskets as we were, so that makes it tougher and we have to keep going into our strength, which is in the post and Kate (Lehman) and Kate Edwards. Not that they aren't playing hard and not necessarily better. We have to be a little smarter in there, and some of the things that we have been doing that worked earlier aren't working now, so then you have to have another option."
This year is Lindenwood's first season in the MIAA, while Truman, a charter member, is leaving for the Great Lakes Valley Conference after this year.
Senior Freddie Sims leads Lindenwood in scoring at 13.7 points per game. Hobson, formerly at NAIA Hastings (Neb.) College, saw Lindenwood, previously an NAIA school, a few years ago at a national tournament. Hastings and Lindenwood never played during Hobson's tenure.
"They shoot the ball very well," Hobson said.
Truman is also receiving votes nationally and has one of the league's top players in senior Becka McHenry, who became the 17th player in Bulldog history to exceed 1,000 points in Truman's last game, an upset victory against top-25 ranked University of Central Missouri. She is tied for ninth in the league at 13.5 points per contest.
Earlier this season, the Bulldogs set a NCAA record with 13 consecutive 3-pointers and a school record 22 overall in a 110-43 victory against Mount Mercy (Iowa) College on New Year's Eve. Truman remains undefeated at home this season.
"They are just good," Hobson said. "They have got everybody back from last year."
Truman stands first nationally in 3-point field goal percentage, third in overall field goal percentage and seventh in free throw percentage. Because of the offensive struggles, FHSU stands 13th in the 15-team league in scoring offense in conference games (60.3 points).
"It's just one of those deals that you go through," Hobson said. "You hope you don't go through them every year, but where you have things that are working for you, and then people are defending you and trying to take those away, and then you have to move on and have another option. Right now, our other options aren't working."