Through a 5-0 start to the 2017 season, the Fort Hays State University women’s basketball team outscored its opponents by an average of more than 32 points per game.

The Tigers, while having high hopes this season in conference play, know that’s not going to be the case in the ever-tough MIAA.

Visiting Missouri Southern, though entering Thursday’s MIAA opener with a 1-5 mark, proved just that.

The Tigers had to grit out a 76-60 victory in front of 1,713 at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

FHSU coach Tony Hobson was pleased with the way his team responded to its first true test outside of a low double-digit win against Newman recently.

“It’s a good win for us,” Hobson said after his club moved to 6-0, 1-0 in the MIAA. “This is the first game they’ve played at full strength. They’ll win some games.”

The FHSU coach was just happy Thursday wasn’t one of those as his team prepares to welcome No. 19-ranked Pittsburg State University on Saturday for a big early season MIAA showdown.

The Tigers considered themselves fortunate to come out on top Thursday against a Missouri Southern team that posed some difficult matchup problems for the Tigers’ bigger-than-average roster.

Still, FHSU never trailed, despite the Lions getting hot from 3 early.

“They have some really good shooters, and they posed a lot of problems with us,” Hobson said.

Tiger junior Carly Heim was the answer FHSU had early. The Hoxie product scored four points in a 7-2 start and had a key layup after Southern hit its first of three first-quarter 3-pointers to make it 7-5. Southern hung around though as FHSU held a 19-13 advantage at the end of the first.

Tatyana Legette and Kacey Kennett then found a groove for FHSU in the second. The duo combined for 17 of FHSU’s 23 second-quarter points as the Tigers opened up a 42-27 lead by half.

Still, Southern stuck around with 3's, hitting three in the second quarter, leaving Hobson feeling a bit uneasy despite the big lead early in the third.

“Out of the five games we played, Newman was a battle,” Hobson said. “This was a good game for us to have to kind of dig in a little bit and play.

“Most of these games are going to have to be that way.”

Southern played right with the Tigers in the third quarter, hitting two more treys while FHSU went 0-for-5 from long range and only Lindsey Shupe was able to muster much offensively. The sophomore from Minneapolis played for the first time this season, serving in a backup point guard role after Heim — who had a game-high 19 points — was in foul trouble in the third. As was Taylor Rolfs, a sophomore from Claflin.

“We had a nice lead, but I had to take them out. Our lineup changed a little bit,” Hobson said.

More matchup issues — particularly on the perimeter — gave FHSU fits, but the Tigers were able to cling to the lead, despite the fact Southern played right with the hosts in the fourth.

FHSU hit 40.9 percent of its shots, but only 26 percent in the third quarter, and finished 5-for-20 from 3-point range for the game.

Pitt State fell for the first time Thursday, dropping a 97-95 overtime decision at Nebraska-Kearney. The Gorillas enter Saturday’s 2 p.m. tip at GMC with a 6-1 mark.

“We’ll have to shoot the ball better,” Hobson said. “They’ll probably defend us about like (Southern). We’ll just have to make more shots for us to be in it.”

Kennett finished with 18 points and Legette 17, with Rolfs chipping in 11. Southern was led by 21 points for Buerge, who hit 3 of 5 from long range.