By CONOR NICHOLL
Sunday is usually a day off for collegiate athletes, especially after a long road trip Saturday. Tony Hobson and his Fort Hays State University women's basketball team rarely meet Sunday. However, after a difficult double-overtime road loss to Truman State (Mo.) University on Saturday and senior guard Melissa Nelson out with a knee injury, Hobson called a team meeting Sunday.
"Let's just get this out of the way and talk about it," Hobson said in his weekly news conference Monday afternoon. "Everybody is down. They were worried about Mel."
The team watched the few minutes of overtime, a contest where FHSU led late in regulation and in the first overtime. Fort Hays lost 57-55 and dropped to 12-5, 4-5 MIAA.
"There was nine opportunities where we made a play or didn't make a play if one of those happens for us, we win the game," Hobson said. "Every time we made an error on defense, they hit the shot, that's what good teams do."
On Wednesday, Fort Hays starts the second half of conference play with four straight home games. The Tigers will play host to league newcomer University of Central Oklahoma (8-9, 1-8 MIAA), a squad that has lost seven straight games, currently the league's longest skid. Start time is 5:30 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Alyssa Fuxa leads the Bronchos with 12.3 points per game. Fort Hays is 2-5 after a 10-0 start.
"Our kids have got a lot going on in our heads right now," Hobson said. "We just need to get going and get our confidence level back up, do something, or play a game where we get these others out of our head. We can't do anything about those now."
In the first half of the conference season, FHSU played six road games, the most of any team. Now, the Tigers finish with six of nine at home. Home-court advantage has been especially strong this year. In league play, MIAA teams have won 65 percent of its home games.
Six teams in the 15-team league remain undefeated at home, including Truman State, Northeastern (Okla.) State University and Emporia State, all teams the Tigers have lost to. Northeastern State came from the Lone Star Conference this year.
"The league is probably a little more balanced," Hobson said. "First of all, you've got 15 teams. We've played at Northeastern, which was always considered the toughest place to play in (their former) league. They've already beat us, Washburn and Emporia all at home. You've added some venues that might be tough to play in, so I think that's one thing."
"Last year, the top two teams in the conference were Washburn and Pitt," he added. "This year, the top two or three teams right now, I don't think are as good."
Fort Hays is 2-1 in home conference games with the only loss a 63-60 defeat to Washburn University on Jan. 12.
"I still have high hopes in our team," senior point guard Kaiameka Brown said. "I feel like we can get back in it. We have a lot of home games left and we play really well at home, so hopefully we can get back into it and get back into the top of the conference."
Fort Hays will likely play the remainder of the season without Nelson, the team's third-leading scorer at eight points a game. Nelson injured her knee last Thursday at Lindenwood (Mo.) University. Nelson went to the doctor Monday, but won't get a full prognosis until later.
"It appears that she has probably played her last game for us, but we are still holding out a little ray of hope until we see the results," Hobson said.