With little to no resistance being provided by a severely outmatched University of Saint Mary team, the challenge for the Fort Hays State women's basketball team became trying to get something productive out of an almost too easy onslaught.
FHSU led 34-2 at the end of the first quarter and 60-8 at halftime en route to a staggering 106-22 win over the Spires on Monday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The No. 5-ranked Tigers emptied their bench by the start of the second quarter but still dominated with any lineup they put on the floor.
Fort Hays (5-0) set a program record for made 3-pointers in a game, knocking in 17 treys on 46 attempts against Saint Mary's porous zone.
“I thought our kids handled the situation about as well as you could,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. “We didn’t force shots, we just passed it a couple times and had wide-open threes all night. Three turnovers for the game; that’s hard to do. We turn it over more times than that sometimes in a layup drill.
“What we got out of it — I think mainly just mentally — is that we just learned how to focus a little bit. I thought we stayed focus and played a good, clean game as far as not turning it over and doing what I wanted to do, which was just take good shots, crash the boards and run the floor.”
The 1-7 Spires, an NAIA team from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, played without three starters. They went 11 of 45 from the field with 28 turnovers and were out-rebounded 49-26 in a game that went down as an exhibition for Saint Mary.
All 13 players for the Tigers scored at least four points. Sophomore guard Hailey Walker had a career-high 15 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Junior Madison Mittie finished with 13 points off the bench, while senior guard Taylor Rolfs scored 11, and senior forward Belle Barbieri turned in her fourth double-double of the young season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Hailey Walker hasn’t had much of a chance to play; she’s coming back from a shoulder injury from this summer,” Hobson said. “So it was good to let her get in there and get in a rhythm and get some shots to fall. Same with our two little freshman guards (Lauryn Reither and Allison McFarren) — the more they can play, you’re just going to see them improve leaps and bounds.”
After taking a 52-point lead into the break, Barbieri said the Tigers did their best to stay locked in.
“(Hobson) told us in the locker room to stay focused, don’t get sloppy,” Barbieri said. “I think we came out and kept it strong in the third quarter and then all our bench people came in and did the same thing.”
FHSU went 41 of 82 of the field, recording 34 assists. Reither dished out eight assists while Page had six.
“We wanted to get good shots up. We were trying to stay away from the sloppy stuff,” Barbieri said. “We were focused on grabbing rebounds, taking good shots and filling in the lanes constantly.”
It was the fewest point allowed for Fort Hays State since the Tigers beat Benedictine College 53-9 in the 1973-74 season.
FHSU has one more non-conference game before delving into MIAA play, facing Tabor at home at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Tigers will open the conference slate at Nebraska-Kearney on Dec. 3.
Tabor is ranked No. 18 in the NAIA ranks.
“Tabor is always well-coached and usually one of the better NAIA teams in the state,” Hobson said. “It will be a different story. We’ll have a lot stiffer test Saturday. What we want to do is kind of get into a flow. We have a game that following Tuesday in the MIAA already, so we want to set the tone and make sure we’re ready.”