The halftime adjustments teams have been trying to make against the Fort Hays State women haven’t been panning out recently.
Instead, it’s been the No. 4-ranked Tigers who have made the necessary tweaks to completely break games open in the third quarter.
The Tigers continued their string of exceptional third periods, extending a nine-point lead to a 23 heading into the fourth en route to an 81-61 win over Central Oklahoma on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Hays (15-0, 6-0 MIAA) has outscored its last three opponents 79-24 in the third quarter in wins over UCO, Northeastern State and Southwest Baptist.
“I think we make reasonable adjustments and talk about what we need to do, but I’d like to give our kids credit for just kind of taking a deep breath and just really digging in and knowing how important that first five minutes of the second half is,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. “A lot of the adjustments you see out on the floor are just them. It’s them adjusting as the game goes on because they’re really intelligent players.”
Fort Hays led by as much as 18 in the first half before the Bronchos fought back to make it a 37-28 game at the break. Senior forward Tatyana Legette helped the Tigers pull away, scoring seven points in a row from the 5:20 to 3:56 mark of the third. Lanie Page then buried a 3 to open a 20-point cushion.
“It’s just important that we focus and we communicate with each other on the court,” Legette said of the third-quarter success. “Everyone has a job out there and we all have to do our job and just make sure that we’re crashing the boards and going hard offensively.
“If you’re lacking in one area, like you’re not scoring, deny the ball and don’t let your man catch the ball and stuff like that.”
Legette led five Tigers in double figures with 18, going 5 of 11 from the field and 8 of 9 from the foul line. She added 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals.
Legette was joined in double digits by Kacey Kennett (14), Page (13), Whitney Randall (12) and Taylor Rolfs (11).
The Tigers burned had success out in transition, with the 5-foot-10 Legette not afraid to lead the break.
“Those are definitely some of my favorite moments, being able to see up the court and get it where it needs to go,” Legette said.
FHSU forced UCO into 23 turnovers and notched 17 steals, with the Tigers’ length on the perimeter bothering the Bronchos.
“I definitely think it’s an advantage that we have height in the guard position,” Legette said. “I think a lot of it comes from working hard in practice. We have a lot of fast, quick guards. It’s just moving the feet and denying the ball and knowing where you’re at and also seeing the ball.”
“Our guards are tall and kind of rangy and have good wing spans,” Hobson said. “Sometimes we don’t get out in the lanes that well, but we tip a lot of passes. Kacey and Lanie, and even Taylor got a couple. (Legette) switched out and they threw it to her hands a couple times. We have to be able to (deflect) passes, because a lot of times we’ll switch off and be guarding the post with our point guard. We have to make that entry pass tough, and we’re getting good at it.”
UCO, which finished 23 of 55 from the field, was led by Ireon Smith’s 11 points while Shatoya Bryson added 10. Fort Hays went 29 of 56 from the floor for 52 percent.
“We had some spurts where we were fairly impressive and then we had some where I thought we let down a little defensively,” Hobson said.
The Tigers will be on the road Wednesday night to face Emporia State.