TAHLEQUAH -- Northeastern State couldn't cool a hot Fort Hays State squad in the second half, losing 73-58 on Saturday afternoon inside the NSU Event Center.
"We didn't move the ball well enough in the second half and execute at all very well," said assistant coach Lucas Hunter. "They (Fort Hays) are a really skilled team. We talked about that yesterday in our preparation. We didn't guard well enough in the second half, and they shot nearly 60-percent from the field."
"We got to have collective accountability and find a way to respond."
NSU pulled the first punch early on the Tigers. They took advantage of a 2-for-11 shooting start and opened up a 17-7 lead. Fort Hays turned the corner in the following three minutes, sank their next four shots, and turned in an 11-2 run on the RiverHawks.
After leaving for the locker room tied at 29, Hays made 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half. Northeastern State never could recover and trailed as many as 16 points (61-46) with 6:41 left in the game.
Quinten Rock led the Tigers with 19 points, and as they will leave Oklahoma with two wins this week and go to 9-9 (9-9 MIAA).
Northeastern State is slated to play a makeup game on Tuesday at Emporia State at 6 p.m.
Fort Hays 70, NSU 58
TAHLEQUAH – The RiverHawks (5-14, 5-14) fell short against their second nationally ranked opponent this week.
NSU was led by Cenia Hayes with 21 points while Morgan Lee had 16 with a perfect 5-of-5 from the field including a career-high four 3-pointers. Zaria Collins also reached double figure scoring with 10 points herself. Shae Sanchez finished with seven points and seven assists.
"The girls came out ready to play and obviously those shots fell for Cenia," head coach Fala Bullock said. "It gave us confidence right off the bat. It's been a really long week for them but I thought they got in there and battled.
Hayes scored the first nine points of the contest for Northeastern State on three 3-point baskets to open the game helping NSU to a 9-4 lead. FHSU stuck around, however, as they were within one 17-16 after the first quarter. The RiverHawks held a 13-7 rebound advantage on the glass.
The Tigers went on a 13-4 to open the quarter pushing out to an eight-point lead but Hayes and Lee responded with back-to-back 3-pointers. Lee wasn't done with her first half scoring, banking in a jumper from the top of the key with under a minute to go. Fort Hays (16-2, 16-2) responded to hold a 34-29 advantage going to the locker room.
The Tigers used their length to outrebound the RiverHawks by nine after halftime and outscored NSU 42-20 in the paint for the game.
"The second quarter and third quarter the starts weren't what we needed, we had a few empty possessions," Bullock said. "I think if we could have cleaned that up and kept it a little bit closer. The kids battled super hard and even to the finish."
NSU was just 3-of-13 from the field in the third quarter and trailed by eight, 49-41. Lee made both of her 3-point attempts. The RiverHawks scored the final five points of the quarter and carried the momentum into the final stanza.
Sanchez turned up the heat in converting an and-one and then picked off the pass and scored on a breakaway with 4:39 remaining to bring NSU within five points. That deficit was the closest the RiverHawks would get though, as FHSU scored the next seven points for a 12-point advantage.
Jaden Hobbs led the Tigers with 20 points.
The RiverHawks are on the road Thursday visiting Newman followed by Central Oklahoma on Saturday.