Streak stretched to 3
By CONOR NICHOLL
Last winter, the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team won 20 games behind one of the nation's top rebounding margins (plus-7.5). This season, FHSU outrebounded 11 of its first 14 opponents.
Before Wednesday, though, opponents had outrebounded the Tigers in each of the last four games by an average margin of -5.5. Last Saturday, Missouri Southern State University outrebounded FHSU 40-28, the Tigers' season-worst rebounding margin.
Three days ago, Fort Hays coach Tony Hobson wrote "40-28" on Fort Hays' whiteboard in the locker room as a constant reminder.
On Wednesday, the Tigers reversed their rebounding struggles, delivered a big second half, and defeated Northwest Missouri State University, 65-53, at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Hays held a 45-26 edge on the glass, and especially took over early in the second half when Northwest Missouri sophomore center Maggie Marnin left the game in foul trouble.
"If we don't win the battle of the boards big tonight, we don't win the game," Hobson said.
In a rare move, Hobson played junior Katelyn Edwards, junior forward Tera Ingalsbe and Kate Lehman at the same time, a lineup that sparked a 15-2 run in the second half.
"It's pretty new to me to play with both Kates in there, and I kind of enjoyed it," Ingalsbe said.
Northwest Missouri dropped to 11-9, 5-7 MIAA, while Fort Hays, receiving votes in the top-25 poll, improved to 15-5, 7-5 MIAA and bumped to 3-0 on a four-game homestand that concludes Saturday.
Entering the contest, both teams had played at nearly identical paces this season. Fort Hays had averaged 70.5 possessions per game, while Northwest Missouri was at 70.8. The Bearcats slowed the game down to 65 possessions, a pace that bothered FHSU early on.
Northwest Missouri put some pressure while Fort Hays dribbled the ball up the floor and then usually went into a zone. Northwest Missouri, paced by 15 points from sophomore Ashleigh Nelson, led 26-25 at halftime and limited the Tigers to 30 percent shooting.
"That's why we really had a hard time getting into it," Hobson said. "They slow you down purposefully with their slow-down, back up. They are not really trying to force a turnover. They are just making you slow down and unless you can get it in quick and advance it up the sideline, it was effective, and I think once we got used to that, we start attacking it better."
After the break, Northwest Missouri took a 37-36 lead, but Marnin left the game at the 13 minute, 38 second mark with her third foul. She didn't come back in until 8:15 remained and FHSU led 46-39.
"We just had to come out in the second half much better," Ingalsbe said.
On Tuesday, Hobson played Lehman and Ingalsbe together in practice.
On Wednesday, the two, along with Edwards, delivered a strong performance, especially early in the second half.
"The reason we were able to tonight was because neither one of their post players can shoot 3s," Hobson said of Lehman and Ingalsbe together. "As long as that is the case, I would use them more, but usually either the four-man or the five-man that we play can shoot 3s, and we kind of struggle with either one of them on the 3-point line. Offensively, we are fine with both of them in there, probably a little better."
Edwards, Lehman and Ingalsbe scored all of the Tigers' second half points until freshman Taylor Chandler sunk a trey from the left wing with 6:49 remaining to cap the 15-2 run.
Edwards finished with her second double-double in four games and collected 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Lehman finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Ingalsbe finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
"That was an effective lineup with both bigs in there just because Tera kind of stretches it out a little bit, and that's when Kate Lehman was going, because they couldn't just pack in a couple of people on her," Hobson said.
In the first 12 minutes of the second half, Edwards scored on a three-point play, a finish inside, two free throws and two baskets within 50 seeonds. On the first one, Edwards went up-and-under on the inside.
On the second one, Edwards picked up a loose ball after a Bearcat turnover and went in for the layup.
She paused at the basket and allowed senior guard Ashley Thayer to rush by her.
Then, Edwards missed the layup, grabbed her own rebound, made the shot, drew a foul and sunk her free throw. Fort Hays will play host to University of Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.
"The last four games, there hadn't been a better player," Hobson said. "Tonight, she is just relentless. She goes after every rebound. She is shooting well from the line."