It's a game where the box score is going to look good for the Lincoln women's basketball team.
The problem is the Blue Tigers were having to play from behind for almost all of the 40 minutes Saturday afternoon against the Fort Hays State Tigers.
"We've shortened the bench up a little bit, so now you're asking girls to extend minutes," Lincoln assistant coach Rob McDonald said after the Blue Tigers' 85-70 loss. "We're trying to play at a higher tempo with pressing full-court, so that takes a lot out of us."
The two teams shot similar percentages from the floor, both had 10 or fewer turnovers and Fort Hays State, with a significant size advantage, only held a plus-7 advantage in rebounding.
However, despite that last stat, Lincoln finished the game with 42 points in the paint, just two behind the Tigers. While Fort Hays State posted up and scored its paint points between the blocks, Lincoln's guards drove the lane for its close-range baskets.
"Watching film, we understood that we were quick and we would be able to get into the lane," McDonald said. "With our quickness, that was our point of emphasis."
Yet it was that inside presence that gave Emporia State a lead it would hold for the game's final 32 minutes.
Jessie Sallach, a 6-foot-1 freshman, came off the bench to score a season-high 16 points for the Tigers. She scored 12 of those points late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter, turning a tie at 13 into a 28-20 Fort Hays State lead with 5:35 to go in the first half.
"(Sallach) hasn't gotten as many minutes, but she's big and it was a good game plan for them to go to her," McDonald said. "It was up to us to try to adjust, we're very undersized. That was a tall task for us."
The Tigers took turns scoring in bunches. Olivia Hollenbeck, who had early foul trouble, returned to the court and scored six straight points for Fort Hays State, helping stretch the halftime lead to 42-32.
Whitney Randall scored the Tigers' first 10 points of the second half, but it was Jaden Hobbs who put the game out of reach.
Hobbs shot 5-of-10 from 3-point range, while the rest of the Fort Hays State roster was 0-of-15. Hobbs hit a 3 from the right corner late in the third quarter, then made another from the left wing early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 70-56 with 8:17 to play.
"Those 3s right there, because of errant plays, because we're not focused, because we're tired, we just couldn't get out and guard it," McDonald said.
Lincoln cut the lead to nine on two occasions in the fourth quarter but couldn't get any closer than that. Each time Fort Hays State answered with a basket on the other end to get the advantage back to double figures.
"Because we have been down in so many games, now it's taking it to the next level and understanding what that looks like, to compete and get back into games," McDonald said.
Playing in just her second game of the season, Simone Jordan led Lincoln with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
"We're playing her a lot of minutes, we're asking a lot of her right now, especially with COVID and all those things that happened to her early on," McDonald said.
AJ Bradley finished with 13 points for the Blue Tigers, followed by Niyah Jackson with 11 points. Ashtin Ingram scored 10 points off the bench, hitting a 3 at the buzzer to make the score 65-54 at the end of the third quarter.
While the box score looked good for Lincoln, McDonald said watching the game film will be more beneficial for the players after Saturday's loss.
"We've got to get better individually and how we play our positions," he said, "but we also need to watch film and get better that way."
Randall led Fort Hays State (6-2) with 20 points, followed by Hobbs with 18 points and Hollenbeck with 13 points. Katie Wagner added a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Lincoln (0-7) plays at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Newman (2-6).