Like any other coach, Fort Hays State coach Tony Hobson naturally worries about whether his team is going to be ready to play heading into any game.
Time and time again this season, the Fort Hays women have quickly put Hobson's mind at ease.
“I’m always concerned about getting ready to play. Are the kids going to be ready to play? I need to quit worrying about that,” Hobson said. “Because, especially in the big games, it seems like we are teed up and ready to go.”
That was certainly the case in a top-25 matchup with Lindenwood on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Just like a week ago at Pittsburg State, the No. 4 Tigers turned in another statement performance, rolling to a 77-52 win over the No. 25 Lions and taking another big step toward the MIAA title.
“We have that overdrive for these good games, or we've had it so far,” Hobson said.
The Tigers (22-1, 13-1 MIAA) took an 11-point lead into halftime and found another gear in the second half, opening up an 18-point advantage by the end of the third quarter and continuing to dominate in the fourth.
All five starters turned in strong games, highlighted by Lanie Page’s game-high 19 points. Tatyana Legette put together a line of 12 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Taylor Rolfs had 12 points and seven rebounds while Belle Barbieri compiled 10 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds. Kacey Kennett handled most of the point guard duties and contributed eight points without committing a turnover, and Whitney Randall added 10 points off the bench.
The Tigers haven’t been fazed in big games this year, which may have something to do with their habit of staying loose and relaxed leading up to a game.
“We’re a goofy bunch. We giggle a lot and laugh — my team does, I’m not a big giggler,” Hobson deadpanned. “They’re just loose. That’s just their personality. As long as they keep getting serious when they need to, I can live with that. I’m just real pleased with the way they came out and played.”
“We obviously like to have fun,” Page added. “I think us having fun and playing loose, we don’t overthink and we just play how we know how to play. That’s a really good thing about our team.”
The Tigers opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run to push the lead to 19 and led by as much as 21 in the third frame. FHSU never let Lindenwood closer than 15 in the fourth and led by as much as 27 in the closing moments.
FHSU shot 53.6 percent from the field, making 30 of 56 attempts while holding Lindenwood to 20 of 64 for 31.3 percent.
Fort Hays dished out 17 assists, with post players Legette and Barbieri combining for 10.
“I think we’re really good at making the extra pass,” said Page, who also had five blocks. “I know our posts are getting a lot better at passing; they were good last year too. One of the passes in the last quarter from Belle to T (Legette) that was really good; that was like a guard pass from Belle.
“It’s just really good that we’re making the extra pass for the open shooters, and that our posts are able to pass it around, too. It makes it pretty easy to run our offense like that.”
“We had so many good passes,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that good of passers, but again, I might have to change my mind on that.”
FHSU turned it over just seven times, with Page crediting Kennett and Rolfs for keeping the Tigers offense running smoothly, with the juniors sharing point guard responsibilities in the three games since Carly Heim suffered a torn ACL.
“They’re facing a lot of pressure because they’re not used to (playing point); Kacey’s kind of used to it, but Kacey and Taylor are both having to step up, and I think they really have,” Page said. “They’re handling it really well.”
Lindenwood (16-5, 10-4 MIAA) was led by Kallie Bildner’s 15 points while Charisse Williams added 12.
The Tigers will play host to Lincoln at 2 p.m. Saturday. Fort Hays has a two-game lead over second-place Washburn with five conference games left in the regular season.