HAYS, Kan. - A 13-0 run in the second quarter and a 15-0 run in the third quarter helped propel the Fort Hays State women's basketball team past Central Oklahoma Saturday afternoon, 76-64 at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers improve to 17-5 overall and 11-5 in conference play, now just two games back of first place in the league standings following Saturday's results, while the Bronchos dip to 5-17 this season and 4-12 in league play.
The Bronchos sprinted out of the gates, knocking down 5-of-6 from behind the arc in the opening quarter. Fort Hays State struggled to keep pace over the first 10 minutes, hitting just 25 percent from the floor in the opening quarter (4-of-16). UCO scored 14-straight points over a five-minute stretch, turning a 5-5 tie into a 19-5 lead. A layup from Jessie Sallach ended the run before Megan Earney buried a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the quarter, helping the Tigers close within 21-10.
Sallach opened the second quarter with a traditional 3-point play before Earney connected again from long range, but the Bronchos responded by scoring the next six points to go back up 14, 30-16.
Fort Hays State snapped into rhythm on offense out of the second quarter media timeout, scoring on six of its next seven possessions to fuel a 13-0 run and close within one, 30-29. Emma Ruddle knocked down a 3-pointer before dropping in a layup through contact following an Ellie Stearns steal, pouring in the ensuing free throw to score six points in 31 seconds.
The Canton, Kan. native added another layup later in the run before Katie Wagner hit her first basket of the game off a dish from Sydney Golladay, helping FHSU close within one. Wagner tied the score at 31 mere seconds later before the Bronchos scored the final two points of the half, going into the locker room up 33-31.
The teams traded buckets early in the second half before Wagner took over, hitting four-straight shots to give the Tigers their first lead of the game five minutes into the third quarter. The Maize, Kan. native sparked a 15-0 Tiger run, with FHSU leading by double figures before the end of the frame.
The Tigers turned up the intensity on defense at the same time, forcing six-straight missed shots and two steals during the big FHSU run.
Earney drilled her third triple of the night early in the fourth quarter, pushing the Tiger lead to 11, 56-45. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter, with FHSU keeping the lead at or above nine points for the rest of the contest.
After scoring one point over the first 18 minutes of action, Wagner finished with a game-high 24 points alongside 13 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. The Maize, Kan. native hit 8-of-14 from the floor while scoring 19 points in the second half. She also led the team with six assists and four steals.
Wagner moved into fourth all-time at Fort Hays State in rebounds, now with 876 career boards, while moving within four points of the top five in scoring at FHSU with 1,548 career points.
Earney knocked down four 3-pointers on the day, finishing the game with 14 points off the bench. Ruddle added 11 points and two blocks, while Golladay also dished out a team-best six assists.
Fort Hays State shot 44.4 percent from the floor on the day (28-of-63), including shooting 59.3 percent from the floor in the second half (16-of-27). The Tigers dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Bronchos by 12, 43-31.
The Tigers will hit the road for the final time in the regular season next weekend, beginning Thursday when FHSU travels to Jefferson City, Mo. to battle Lincoln beginning at 5:30 p.m.