The Fort Hays State women’s basketball team returned from the holiday break every bit as sharp as it was entering it.
The No. 6-ranked Tigers had no trouble getting back to form after nearly two weeks in between games, rolling to an 84-41 win over Bethany in FHSU’s final non-conference game of the season on Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Hays improved to 11-0, marking its best start in program history heading into Thursday night's top-25 matchup at No. 15 Central Missouri.
“I liked what I saw,” Fort Hays coach Tony Hobson said. “I didn’t think we looked too out of shape. I didn’t think we looked too rusty.”
After racing out to a 24-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, the Tigers scored the last 10 points of the half to take a 48-21 lead into the break and then reeled off the first 12 points of the third quarter for a 22-0 run. FHSU opened up a 41-point advantage by the end of the third frame and played its reserves in the fourth.
“We were really focused and we got off to a good start,” FHSU junior forward Belle Barbieri said. “We just locked down on this team when we needed to.”
Fort Hays again used a balanced scoring attack with five players scoring in double figures. Lanie Page led the Tigers with 13 while Barbieri, Whitney Randall and Whitney Clampitt each had 11, and Tatyana Legette added 10.
The Tigers recorded assists on 20 of their 31 made field goals and shot 43.7 percent from the field.
“We have a lot of very unselfish players so it makes it fun to play with them,” Barbieri said.
They committed just three turnovers while pushing the pace against the NAIA Swedes.
“We were trying to really push the ball and just work on transition stuff," Hobson said. "When you can do that, and run it like we were and only turn it over three times … we turn it over more than that in practice a lot of times.
“I thought we were pretty sharp."
Clampitt's 11 points were a season-high for the sophomore guard from Chillicothe, Mo. She went 4 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 from 3-point range in 11 minutes.
“I thought Whitney did a great job,” Hobson said. “She’s kind of struggled a little bit, not necessarily recently. But early in the season she was struggling with a little bit of a heart condition scare; I think that kind of set her back. She kind of wasn’t getting as many minutes as she had been, and that just kind of compounds. You don’t get to play as much and when you do play you’re not playing quite as good.
“But she’s rebounded and is doing a really good job for us. I really like what I saw tonight. She's an explosive offensive player and we need her off the bench playing like she can.”
FHSU's reserves took advantage of another opportunity for extended playing time, with the bench producing 38 points.
“I thought the kids coming in did a really good job of doing what we want them to do and what will get them in the lineup someday,” Hobson said. “We have some kids that aren’t getting a lot of time that aren’t bad players and they use this time wisely.”
Bethany had trouble getting up shots against Fort Hays' length, getting 15 shots blocked by the Tigers. Robin Ritsema matched her career-high with four blocks while Legette and Page each had three.
The Swedes (8-7) finished just 15 of 60 from the floor for 25 percent. Sarah Bartel led Bethany with nine.
Tipoff will be 5:30 p.m. on Thursday against defending national champ UCM in Warrensburg, Mo. The Jennies, who beat FHSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, enter 8-2 and 1-1 in the MIAA with road losses to St. Mary's (Texas) and Washburn.