It took about a quarter for the Fort Hays State women to figure out how to best attack the Newman zone, but after that, the Tigers had no trouble picking it apart.
FHSU trailed by seven at the end of the first quarter but soon found its offensive rhythm and eventually broke away from the Jets for a 78-58 victory on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The No. 23-ranked Tigers found themselves down 17-11 at the end of the first frame after hitting just 4 of 14 shots from the floor. They broke out of the funk in the second quarter, knocking down 12 of 16 shots for a 26-point quarter to take a 37-30 lead into halftime.
Fort Hays continued to shoot well in the second half and pulled away to improve to 17-4 overall and 8-4 in the MIAA.
"It's just weird, because you don't go against (a zone) for two or three weeks, and it just takes a while to settle in," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "And you can't simulate it in practice. We never play zone and we aren't very good at it even going against each other.
"I thought the second half we found where we were going to get the shots. Taylor (Rolfs) does a good job of sneaking around the defense. We knew the high post was open a lot so we were just going to put a shooter in there and let them shoot and try to crash the boards. Pretty effective in the second half. Once we hit a couple in there then they started diving and we were getting wide-open perimeter ones and hit a couple of those."
Rolfs led five Tigers in double figures with 17 points. She helped put Newman away with a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Whitney Randall added 13m while Cydney Bergmann chipped in 11 off the bench, and Belle Barbieri and Jaden Hobbs each had 10.
The Tigers recorded assists on 24 of their 32 buckets. Hobbs and Kacey Kennett had six assists apiece while Rolfs dished out four.
"We have a lot of girls on the team that are good at getting people open shots," Rolfs said. "Our offense really just focused on in and out, and so we really have people that look to get people shots, not just their own shots, and everyone appreciates that a lot."
"A lot of different people were getting shots," Hobson said. "Like I've said before a wide-open shooter, if she's your second or third best 3-point shooter, is better than your best one shooting covered. I thought we did a good job of being unselfish."
After the slow start, FHSU opened the second quarter on a 9-3 run including a 3-point play from Bergmann. A 3-pointer from Hobbs capped off a 9-0 run late in the quarter, and Randall hit a jumper with 15 seconds left in the half to give the Tigers a seven-point lead at the break.
"I think it was really just focusing on our defense," Rolfs said. "Yeah, our offense got better, but just keeping them from getting those easy shots. I think once our defense gets better our offense just starts to flow with everything."
Newman's Kaitlyn Potter scored a game-high 24 points, going 8 of 19 from the field and 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
"They didn't realize the Potter girl can shoot and doesn't need any space," Hobson said. "She proved it two or three times in the first half. She hit a couple early in the second half, but then we did a good job on her and at least made her take tough looks."
Randall gave the Tigers a spark early, scoring all 13 of her points in the first half. Hobson said the junior forward has been battling a foot injury. She played sparingly in the second half.
"We're not playing her any more than we have to," Hobson said. "She's fighting through the injury."
Newman was still within nine with eight minutes left before the Tigers used an 11-0 run to push the lead to 20 with 3:07 left. The run included two threes from Rolfs and another from Allison McFarren. The Tigers shot 32 of 65 from the field for 49% while Newman finished 19 of 49 for 39%.
"We have a tendency to raise our competition when the competition raises, but I knew Newman was going to give us a battle tonight," Hobson said. "They've battled everybody. They haven't won a lot of conference games but they've been in almost all of them."
In addition to the six assists, Kennett finished with nine points and seven rebounds.