JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Fort Hays State women's basketball team used a big second half to pull away from Lincoln on Saturday (Feb. 15), winning 86-55. With the win, the Tigers (18-6, 9-6 MIAA) have secured a spot in the MIAA Championship Tournament for the ninth year in a row.


After taking a 29-23 lead into the locker room, the Tigers knocked down 62.1 percent (23-of-37) of their shots in the second half to pull away.


Fort Hays State never trailed in the contest after it held the Blue Tigers (3-21, 0-15 MIAA) scoreless for nearly seven minutes out of the gate. The Tiger defense forced LU to miss its first eight shots while creating seven turnovers over the first seven minutes. But the Tigers were unable to take advantage on the other end, hitting just one of its first 12 shots. FHSU managed to hit 6-of-8 free throws during that span to stretch the lead to 8-0.


Shots started to fall for both teams late in the first quarter, with Taylor Rolfs knocking down the first 3-pointer of the game in the final minute of the frame to pad the lead to nine, 16-7.


Lincoln then opened the second period on an 11-2 run, tying the score at 18-18 with less than five minutes to play before halftime. After the Blue Tigers tied things up, Kacey Kennett responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to put FHSU back in front and spark an 8-0 Tiger run. LU scored the next five points to close within three, but Lauryn Reither buried a big 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to give FHSU a six-point lead at halftime, 29-23.


Another 3-pointer from Kennett and a layup from Rolfs helped the Tigers push their lead to double figures in the first minute of the second half, 34-23. The Blue Tigers had one last run in them, hitting eight of their next nine shots to close within five with two minutes left in the quarter, 47-42.


Fort Hays State turned on the jets over the final 12 minutes, closing the game on a 39-13 run. The Tigers hit 16-of-22 from the floor (72.7 percent) during the run, including six of their 10 attempts from behind the arc.


Three layups from Barbieri, a Jaden Hobbs buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter and a Hobbs 3-pointer early in the final frame pushed the lead to 59-42. Madison Mittie buried a pair of 3-pointers early in the run before Whitney Randall took over later in fourth quarter, scoring nine points in a three-minute stretch. Hailey Walker put a bow on the game with a 3-pointer in the final minute, giving the Tigers 11 long-range makes in the game, tied for their most against a DII opponent this season.


After hitting just 27.6 percent from the floor in the first half, the strong second half helped the Tigers finish the game at 47 percent shooting (31-of-66). The Tigers dominated on the boards, outrebounding Lincoln 43-31. FHSU turned 16 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points. The Tigers forced 20 turnovers while coughing the ball up just 12 times.


Randall scored a career-high 21 points after hitting 9-of-10 from the floor. Barbieri picked up her eighth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hobbs matched her season high with nine assists while adding 14 points. Kennett tallied 11 points, five rebounds and a team-high four steals.


Hobbs, Kennett, Mittie and Randall all knocked down two shots from behind the arc.