With Belle Barbieri battling foul trouble and Whitney Randall slowed by a foot injury, the Fort Hays State women needed a big game from the perimeter against Central Oklahoma.
Instead, the Tigers suffered through one of their worst shooting performances of the season, going just 33% from the floor in a 77-66 loss on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
FHSU (17-5, 8-5 MIAA) had ample opportunities to bust out of the shooting slump, but finished just 6 of 28 from 3-point range.
“You have to be able to hit timely shots, and we just had a bunch of them that did not go in,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said.
“I don’t remember too many bad (looks) — might have been a couple at the end of the clock or something, but most of them were open looks that I want them to take.”
Opportunities in the post were scarce for the Tigers. Barbieri was limited to just 18 minutes before fouling out with 5:20 left, and Randall finished with just six points as she continues to play through a foot injury.
“We’re a totally different team if we don’t have Belle in there,” Hobson said. “It hurts us because we’re not real deep at the position. Whitney Randall wasn’t effective for part of the game; she’s battling an injury. She’s trying as hard as she can, but it’s tough on her.
“We played half of that game without our starting four and five, and against these guys, I think you need to be full speed to get them.”
FHSU had a chance to open up a sizeable lead early after holding UCO scoreless for the first five minutes. But the Tigers mustered just six points during that span and led by only a point (12-11) at the end of the first frame.
"In a situation like that, you would hope you would have a 10-, 12-point lead to start the game, but we just let so many opportunities escape — same thing happened in the second half," Hobson said.
Central Oklahoma outscored FHSU 23-17 in the second quarter to take a five-point lead into halftime. UCO then opened a 14-point advantage in the third quarter after a 17-5 run fueled by four 3-pointers from Clary Donica.
“We’re slow to recognize sometimes who’s doing the damage and we have to be better at that,” Hobson said.
Despite its shooting woes, FHSU fought back to get within a point with 3:47 left after an 8-0 run capped off by a putback from Cydney Bergmann. Fort Hays had a chance to take the lead but turned the ball over, and UCO answered with a 3-point play from Micayla Haynes.
UCO (16-7, 10-5 MIAA) put the game out of reach with back-to-back buckets inside from Kelsey Johnson to push the lead to nine with a minute left.
The Bronchos finished 27 of 61 from the floor for 44% and went 9 of 16 from behind the arc. UCO outrebounded FHSU, 46-35.
Taylor Rolfs and Jaden Hobbs each scored 14 points for the Tigers. Bergmann added 11 points off the bench, while Barbieri finished with eight points and nine rebounds despite the foul trouble.
Donica paced the Bronchos with 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Johnson finished with 16 points and 11 boards. Haynes and Shatoya Bryson added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
The Tigers will play MIAA-leading Central Missouri on the road on Thursday. The Jennies (18-4, 12-1 MIAA) took their first conference loss on Saturday with a 67-57 setback at Missouri Western.