A flurry of 3-pointers gave the Tabor College Bluejays an early lead Friday (Dec. 14), but a dominating performance in the paint helped sixth-ranked Fort Hays State move to 9-0 on the year after an 85-51 victory. The Tigers are now 20-0 all-time against Tabor, their most wins against an opponent without a loss.
Despite losing the opening tip for only the second time this season, the Tigers took an early 4-0 lead after some nifty passing left easy layups for Belle Barbieri and Carly Heim. The visitors quickly turned things around after a slow start, drilling three-straight 3-pointers and taking a 9-6 lead. The Tiger defense turned things around over the final four minutes of the quarter, utilizing three turnovers to go on a 13-2 run to go in front by eight, 21-13.
The Bluejays proved why they are ranked 19th in the NAIA DII Coaches' Top 25 early in the second quarter, knocking down triples on four-straight trips down the floor. The 12-2 run propelled Tabor back into the lead, 27-26. However, Fort Hays State once again had an answer, closing the half on a 7-0 run after the teams traded buckets to take a 40-32 lead into the locker room.
The second half was all Fort Hays State, with the Tigers outscoring Tabor 45-19 over the final 20 minutes. The FHSU defense did not allow a single point in the paint after halftime, outscoring Tabor 20-0 in the paint. In fact, all five Tabor buckets in the second half originated behind the arc, with the Bluejays finishing 0-for-14 inside the 3-point line.
While the defense was taking care of business on the other end of the floor, Whitney Randall helped the Tigers put a stranglehold on the game. The sophomore scored eight of her career-high 15 points in the third quarter, hitting all three of her shots from the floor.
The Tigers continued to pull away in the fourth quarter, limiting the Bluejays to just one field goal en route to outscoring them 22-4 in the frame. Freshman Kinly Grubb made an immediate impact when she stepped on the floor, hitting all three of her shots from the floor while accumulating a career-high nine points. The Bluejays did not make a field goal over the final eight minutes, 12 seconds and went scoreless for more than seven minutes to finish the game, allowing the Tigers to pull away once and for all with a 16-0 run.
Three Tigers scored in double figures, with Tatyana Legette matching Randall with 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and a career-best five blocks. Kacey Kennett dropped in 11 points thanks to a pair of 3-pointers. Carly Heim totaled seven points, five rebounds and four assists. Madison Mittie swiped three steals, helping the Tigers force 26 Tabor turnovers. FHSU turned those miscues into 35 points off turnovers.
The Tigers outrebounded Tabor 43-31, including a 19-8 edge on the offensive glass. FHSU posted a shooting percentage of 46.0 percent (29-of-63) from the floor while holding Tabor to 36.2 percent (17-of-47) from the floor.
Fort Hays State will look to move to 10-0 for just the third time in history Monday when Rockhurst makes the trip to Hays. First tip between the Tigers and Hawks is set for 5:30 p.m.