Shaw, Tiger defense shining
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University junior Keriann Shaw matched up against Pittsburg State University junior Lizzy Jeronimus, a two-time All-American honorable mention and the national leader in free throws attempted, last Saturday.
Shaw, known for defense and rebounding, continued her trend of shutting down a top scorer. FHSU lost 71-67 at Gross Memorial Coliseum, and Jeronimus finished with 17 points on 4 of 10 shooting and 9 of 10 from the foul line.
Shaw, who played 26 minutes, allowed Jeronimus little offense when the two were in the game at the same time.
"It seems like you can't get loose from her, so it really destroys your offense," Gorilla coach Lane Lord said.
Jeronimus finished 1 of 5 from the field and 8 of 8 from the foul line when Shaw was in the game. Shaw committed two fouls and none led to Jeronimus foul shots. At stretches, Shaw never allowed Jeronimus to shoot, including from the 12 minute, 57 second mark to 10:21 in the second half.
Jeronimus' lone field goal with Shaw in the contest came with 45 seconds left when she drove down the left side and lofted a layup over junior center Kate Lehman and senior Katelyn Edwards.
"She can really defend, and she is smart and tough," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said.
The 5-foot-10 Shaw and the 6-4 Lehman, the national leader in blocks per game, have helped Fort Hays enjoy the No. 2 defense in the 14-team conference at 16-6, 9-6 MIAA with four regular season contests left.
"It almost becomes a 1-on-1 game with everybody else, because the other players deny so well on their team, and then they just funnel everything to Kate," Lord said.
In addition, the Tigers have four players in the top 15 in steals per game. Sophomore Taylor Chandler stands fifth at 1.8, and Edwards ranks eighth at 1.6.
"Defensively, she is just such a difference maker," Hobson said of Chandler. "She is the only kid that we have got that can kind of just steal it out in the open floor."
Fort Hays, on a two-game losing streak, heads to Washburn University (15-8, 10-6) for a 5:30 p.m. start Wednesday. Washburn has won two straight by a combined eight points after it lost three in a row. The Tigers haven't won in Topeka since 1994-95. The Tigers stand sixth in the conference, a half-game behind Washburn. The top four earn a first-round bye to the conference tournament.
"I really like Fort Hays' team," Lord said. "I think they are going to one to be reckoned with come tournament time."
In conference play, FHSU stands fifth in scoring defense, third in field goal percentage defense and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense. However, when defensive numbers are adjusted on a per-possession basis -- the truest measure of team defense -- the Tigers stand second.
Fort Hays has allowed .877 points per possession. Emporia State leads at .864, while Washburn is third at .912.
The Tigers also stand first in 2-point field goal percentage defense (38.2). The MIAA average is 44 percent. Fort Hays limited Pittsburg State to .95 points per possession. The Gorillas average 1.06 points per possession, a sizeable difference.
Before the Jeronimus matchup, Shaw held down Emporia State senior Laura Patrick for the second time on Feb. 8.
In the first game, a 72-57 Tiger win on Jan. 30, Patrick finished 3 of 11 for seven points. In the second contest, an 80-77 FHSU loss, Patrick played all 40 minutes and was 1 of 7 for five points. Patrick averages 14.1 points per game and leads the MIAA in 3s made per game.
"That's the player that they try to go to and really working to try to keep the ball out of her hands in the first place," Shaw said. "If she doesn't have it, then I don't have to guard her with the ball. She is a good player."
After the second game, ESU coach Jory Collins called the contest easily Patrick's worst of the year. Edwards missed the game with a knee injury, and Shaw started in her place. Shaw consistently worked through single and double screens and guarded Patrick closely when she had the ball. After a few early misses, Patrick showed frustration. Shaw had a similar performance against Pittsburg State and Jeronimus.
"Shaw does such a good job of being physical with her hands," Lord said.