By FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION
TOPEKA, Kan. – Five points in the first 52 seconds from Whitney Randall helped the No. 1 Fort Hays State women’s basketball team cruise to a 72-50 win over Washburn in Wednesday’s conference opener (Dec. 1). The Tigers (6-0, 1-0 MIAA) never trailed in the contest, leading wire-to-wire for the third time this season.
It took the Tigers just over three minutes to build a double-digit lead, with the Tigers scoring on their first five possessions. Randall hit a stick-back layup after Olivia Hollenbeck won the opening tip before the senior buried a 3-pointer in transition the next time down the floor. Hollenbeck converted on a traditional 3-point play after a Washburn bucket before Cydney Bergmann converted on her first shot attempt in her first appearance this year. Hollenbeck added another second-chance layup at the 6:58 mark, giving the Tigers a 12-2 lead and prompting an Ichabod timeout.
Washburn (1-5, 0-1 MIAA) closed within five after closing the first quarter on a 10-3 run, but 3-pointers from Lauren West and Megan Earney early in the second frame quickly padded the lead back to double figures. FHSU took a 12-point lead into the locker room after a late Jessie Sallach jumper put the Tigers in front 36-24.
The lead ballooned to 16 early in the third quarter before Washburn momentarily closed within eight thanks to a 10-2 run. Fort Hays State responded by outscoring the Ichabods 13-2 over the final four minutes of the quarter to lead by 19 with 10 minutes to play, 55-36. The Tigers hit 6-of-7 from the free-throw line over the stretch while holding Washburn without a field goal.
West opened the fourth quarter with another triple before and Earney also buried another triple later in the frame to give the Tigers their largest lead of the season, 70-45.
The 22-point win was FHSU’s first double-digit road win over the Ichabods in 31 years (11/27/90) and is the largest-such victory since the 1974-75 season.
Hollenbeck paced the Tigers with 13 points after hitting 5-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe. West (12 points) and Earney (11 points) both hit a trio of 3-pointers in the victory. Katie Wagner also added 11 points alongside a team-best seven rebounds, with Randall totaling nine points, four rebounds and a team-leading three assists. Bergmann and Jessie Sallach both scored seven points for the Tigers.
Fort Hays State hit 45.3 percent from the floor (24-of-53) and season-highs from behind the arc (46.7 percent, 7-of-15) and from the charity stripe (89.5 percent, 17-of-19). The Tigers forced 12 turnovers with eight steals while turning the ball over just nine times.
The Tigers will continue their run of rivalry games Saturday (Dec. 4, 1:30 p.m.) when they travel to Emporia, Kan. to battle Emporia State before returning home next weekend (Saturday, Dec. 11) to host No. 21 Nebraska-Kearney.