The Fort Hays State women have routinely ripped through the lower-tier MIAA teams this season, but Saturday’s game with Lincoln was a reminder that any team in the conference can be a tough out.
No. 4-ranked Fort Hays never appeared to be in serious jeopardy of being upset, but the last-place Blue Tigers did present some challenges.
Still, FHSU was plenty good enough to hold Lincoln at bay, picking up a 73-59 win at Gross Memorial Coliseum to move to 23-1 overall and 14-1 in the MIAA.
The Tigers fought through an off-shooting game (39.7 percent) but still led by double digits for most of the second half, though Lincoln (10-14, 2-13 MIAA) did get as close as eight points late.
“You can’t take anyone lightly,” FHSU senior forward Tatyana Legette said. “It’s a great crowd here, a lot of people, great environment. Everybody gets excited to play here, so we were expecting their best.
“We just had to focus and play our hardest. Like coach said, ‘Why buy a Lamborghini and only drive it 15 miles per hour?’ It’s just important that we played as hard as we could.”
Legette again filled up the stat sheet, recording 15 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.
“I thought T bailed us out a little bit,” Fort Hays State coach Tony Hobson said of Legette. “We missed two or three shots on one possession and she got all the rebounds, and she’s accustomed to doing that.
“I just didn’t think we had the same edge about us tonight. It’s human nature to not be quite as ready sometimes when you’re not playing someone that you think is going to give you a tough game. But there’s really no gimmes in this league. (Lincoln) was ready to play and they played well against us.”
Lincoln was still within seven before the Tigers threatened to break it open, building a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter. FHSU went into halftime up 42-28 and led by as much as 17 in the third quarter.
The Blue Tigers pulled within nine with 6:37 left but a Taylor Rolfs 3-pointer and two free throws from Belle Barbieri pushed the lead back to 15.
“I think (Lincoln) played a good game and had a good strategy in kind of slowing down the game with a little fullcourt zone and then backed into a zone the whole second half,” Hobson said. “When you’re not making open shots, it just really uglies things up and we struggled a little bit.
“They’ve got some really talented players. I thought they played well, but I didn’t think we were very sharp.”
Barbieri joined Legette with 15 points while Lanie Page added 10 and Whitney Randall secured a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Lincoln finished 41 percent from the field (25 of 61), at times hurting Fort Hays with drives to the basket.
“We had to play everyone honest,” Legette said. “They all like to go in there and drive, so we had to get a body on somebody and box them out.”
The Tigers maintained their two-game lead over Washburn atop the MIAA standings. FHSU will play at Central Oklahoma on Thursday.