Ryan Prickett, Sports Information Director
KEARNEY, Neb. – The Fort Hays State women’s basketball team handed fourth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney (12-1, 12-1 MIAA) its first loss of the season Thursday evening, winning 61-49. The Tigers (10-2, 10-2 MIAA) trailed for just 17 seconds and led by as many as 21 before holding off a second-half Loper win to help FHSU move within one game of first place in the MIAA standings.
The Tigers turned in the best offensive performance the Lopers have allowed this season, scoring 61 points on 46.2 percent shooting (24-of-52) and 53.8 percent from behind the arc (7-of-13), all of which are season-highs for UNK opponents.
The teams went back-and-forth in the first quarter before Fort Hays State started to pull away in the second frame. The Tigers outscored UNK 23-9 in the period, opening the quarter on an 11-1 run before tacking on a 10-0 run over the heart of the frame. FHSU was solid on both sides of the ball, hitting 9-of-19 from the floor (47.4 percent) and 5-of-8 from deep (62.5 percent) while holding the Lopers to just three field goals and forcing five turnovers.
Whitney Randall and Sydney Golladay opened the quarter with 3-pointers before Katie Wagner dropped in a driving layup, forcing UNK to use a timeout down 21-11. The Tiger lead soon ballooned to 17 after FHSU drilled its next three shots from behind the arc. Jaden Hobbs hit one before Emma Ruddle buried the first 3-pointer of her career. Randall added another triple on the next possession. Ruddle capped off the quarter with a layup, giving the freshman a career-high seven points in the second quarter alone.
After leading 36-20 at the break, Fort Hays State scored the first five points of the third quarter, pushing the lead to a game-high 21, 41-20. The Lopers finally broke out of their funk, closing the frame on a 17-3 run over the final 6 minutes, 27 seconds. UNK held the Tigers scoreless for nearly six minutes while scoring 12-consecutive points, closing within 41-32.
Hobbs broke up the run with a 3-pointer before the Lopers scored the final five points of the quarter, closing within seven, 44-37.
UNK got within six early in the final quarter before the Tigers went on another big run, scoring 12 of the next 13 points to go back up by 17, 58-41. Randall and Hobbs scored three points the old-fashioned way on consecutive possessions to spark the run before Madison Mittie capped the run with a 3-pointer from the right wing. The Lopers held the Tigers to just three points over the final five minutes of the game, but could only manage eight points of their own.
Hobbs led the Tigers with 16 points and six assists after hitting both of her attempts from behind the arc. Randall added 13 points and three steals while Cydney Bergmann grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds alongside six points and one steal.
Olivia Hollenbeck added seven points, two steals and one block with Wagner chipping in six points, eight rebounds and one steal.
The Tigers outrebounded the Lopers by three, 37-34, just the second time UNK has been outrebounded this season. Fort Hays State forced 12 turnovers, scoring 14 points off those miscues.
FHSU held the Lopers to a 35.2 percent effort from the floor (19-of-54), 27.3 percent from deep (6-of-22) and 35.7 percent from the line (5-of-14).
The Tigers and Lopers will turn around and play again in less than 48 hours when they face off inside Gross Memorial Coliseum on Saturday (Jan. 30) beginning at 2 p.m. Another win for the Tigers would push FHSU into a virtual tie for first place in the MIAA with just four weeks remaining in the regular season.