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FHSU women survive test from UCO

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The University of Central Oklahoma women's basketball team entered Wednesday's contest 1-7 in MIAA road games, with the lone victory coming at last place Lincoln (Mo.) University.

In league play, the Bronchos ranked last in the 14-team league in 3-point field goal percentage at 26.6 percent.

But UCO's long range shooting helped give Fort Hays State University a scare. The Tigers trailed by three at halftime and needed a 12-2 run in the final 6 minutes, 15 seconds to deliver a 72-62 victory at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

"I thought they just did a lot of things right, ran the floor well," coach Tony Hobson said. "When you are shooting like that, and you have four or five kids that can just catch and shoot - if they are on, they are going to cause you trouble."

UCO, paced by a game-high 20 points from senior guard Britney Morgan, went 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half and 8 of 16 for the contest.

FHSU made just 2 of 16 from long range, including a big 3 from the top of key by sophomore guard Taylor Chandler that broke a 60-60 tie.

"Central played a great game," Hobson said. "They played with a lot of energy -- and for being away from home. It wasn't necessarily everything we were doing wrong."

Fort Hays moved to 18-7, 11-7 MIAA, while the Bronchos dropped to 11-14, 6-12 MIAA.

"We are at the point in the season where we cannot lose," junior center Kate Lehman said. "It's not an option, and we know that. So I think we underestimated them a little bit."

The Tigers, again receiving votes in the national poll and ranked No. 10 in the Central Region rankings Wednesday, have the regular season finale and senior night Friday against Northeastern (Okla.) State University. The top eight in each region make the NCAA tournament. Senior Katelyn Edwards and Tera Ingalsbe will be honored before the game.

Edwards has started 81 of 82 career games with the Tigers and has 1,086 career points and 645 rebounds. Ingalsbe has played in 54 career games in two years with 399 points.

"We are going to miss Kate," Lehman said. "We are going to miss Tera, too. But Kate, just her quickness and her attitude more than anything -- if she is having a bad game, you don't know it, just because her attitude is still so positive."

Fort Hays trailed 39-36 at halftime and then enjoyed a 16-0 run early in the second half and eventually led by 11. UCO came back to tie the game before the Tigers' late run sealed the win

"We were like, 'OK, well, I guess we've got to actually play now,' " Lehman said. "We stepped up. We had them buried, and then we kind of let up a little bit and they proved that they can come back."

Lehman, battling a slight back issue, finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks, five assists that tied a career high and no turnovers. She fought through double and triple teams and passed well out of the post.

"I am fine," Lehman said. "Nothing that will stop me from playing."

Hobson said the Tigers worked on several ways to get players open. Fort Hays is playing more minutes the last several games with Edwards and junior Keriann Shaw, two non-shooters. The defense sagged inside, but the Tigers still found open layups.

"Kate Lehman is an unselfish player," Hobson said. "She has video game numbers most of the time.But if the people are open, she will get it to them."

After intermission, Central Oklahoma scored the first basket before FHSU went on its 16-0 run and took a 52-41 lead with 12:10 left. Fort Hays held the Bronchos scoreless for 7 minutes, 33 seconds. Edwards, who finished with 19 points, had eight points in the run.

UCO came back to tie the game before Chandler delivered more late-game plays, a trademark of her career. Chandler's 3, just her second in the last four games, gave FHSU the lead. With FHSU leading 65-62, Chandler had a steal in the backcourt.

"Defense -- that's Taylor," Lehman said. "If you want one word to describe Taylor, it's defense or quickness. I think she has proven that over and over. What, three or four games, she has had a steal in the last minute or two where it was completely necessary. That's her forte."