Tigers' Chandler picking up the offense
By CONOR NICHOLL
Last year, Taylor Chandler had a strong freshman season for the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team as one of the MIAA's leaders in steals. Chandler was a key reserve on a 22-win team who mainly scored her points off layups following steals. In the second half of the season, Chandler scored a little more often on 3-pointers and jumpers. She averaged four points per game in 19 minutes per contest and paced the team with 50 steals.
In the summer, Chandler focused on her offensive game, shooting 3s and drive to the basket. Chandler, a first-team all-state player at Class 6A powerhouse Wichita Heights, showcased an all-around game at high school.
"When I got here, I just had to play my role in the game and just feel for the game," she said. "Towards the end of last season, I got more of a feel for it playing with the team and playing at a college level. I knew what I needed to work on over the summer."
On Tuesday, Fort Hays has its first test of the season against Newman University at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers, 3-0 and receiving votes in the NCAA Division II national poll, have won all three games by at least 39 points. Start time is 7 p.m. Last season, the Tigers defeated Newman 66-46 but led by just six at halftime. The Jets are 2-3, but two losses by a combined 11 points. Alexandra Ciabatton leads the teeam with 22.4 points per game.
"That's why if you don't schedule tough teams and you don't play tough teams, your team never gets as good as they will be," coach Tony Hobson said. "We will get a much stiffer test on Tuesday."
The 5-foot-5 Chandler started two games in 2012-13, but has started all three this year. She has four steals and averages 10 points a contest. Chandler is 11 of 26 (42.3 percent) from the field, 4 of 10 from the 3-point line and 4 of 4 on free throws. Senior Katelyn Edwards leads the Tigers with 17.3 points and 10.7 rebounds a game for a team that's averaging 94 points a contest.
"It's been good," Chandler said. "We can do better. Just trying to get through the beginning of the season, but as far as everybody coming off the bench, and everybody playing and everybody being able to score, it's good, because we are going to need it in the long run into conference play."
Last season, Chandler shot 37 percent from the field, 21.7 percent (10 of 46) from long rage and 49 percent from the foul line. Against Bethel College last week, Chandler finished with a career-high 13 points and three steals.
Her first basket came from an Edwards steal. Her second score came off a familiar play - she stole the ball and scored. She hit a jumper, her first of the season, with 3:10 left in the first half.
"She worked on her offensive game over the summer, and she played with pretty good energy tonight," Hobson said. "I was fairly happy with Taylor. She has got a burst that nobody else has, and she can get by people. To do that, she has to make them honor her outside shot, which she has improved that a lot. I think as the season wears on, you will see Taylor score more."
In the second half, she had another steal that led to a layup, a three-pointer and a layup in the halfcourt. Before Jan. 24 of last season, Chandler was 4 of 26 on jumpers/3-pointers, according to official play-by-play data.
"It's just something that I have tried to just develop over the season and make my game more versatile and not just 3s and just not layups," Chandler said.