By FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION
Fort Hays State Men’s Basketball tried mightily to get past Missouri Western on Tuesday night (Feb. 23) at Gross Memorial Coliseum, but came up short in a 78-73 loss. The Griffons never led by double figures, but found a way to hold off each push from the Tigers to hang on in a crucial battle with big MIAA Tournament implications.
The Tigers led for only two minutes and 11 seconds of the first half, all during the early portion of the game. FHSU’s biggest lead of three points occurred with 14:12 remaining in the first half, but a four-point play shifted the lead back to Missouri Western’s favor a few seconds later. The Griffons led the remainder of the first half and took just a three-point lead into the locker room, 39-36.
The Tigers opened the second half on a 4-0 run to take a brief 40-39 lead, but Tyrell Carroll, who was a thorn in the side of the Tigers all night, buried a 3-point field goal to put the Griffons back on top for good. Carroll went on to finish with a game-high 25 points, dished out seven assists to his teammates, and made several crucial shots down the stretch to hold off the Tigers.
After a quick 5-0 burst from the Griffons, the Tigers cut the lead back to two points, but MWSU stretched the lead to eight with 13:56 to go. FHSU trimmed the lead down to three points six times all the way up until 1:22 remaining in the game. Nyjee Wright then hit a pair of free throws to draw the Tigers within one with 38 seconds remaining. Carroll hit a pair of free throws with 28 seconds remaining and then Quinten Rock drove the lane but had his shot blocked and the Griffons rebounded the ball. Reese Glover hit a pair of free tosses to put the game away with 10 seconds left.
Jared Vitztum led the Tigers with his 12th double-double of the season, going for 20 points and 10 rebounds. Bjarni Jonsson had a big night with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and one made free throw. Rock had 11 points and Gilbert Peters was 5-of-6 from the field off the bench for 10 points. Kaleb Hammeke led the Tigers in assists with seven.
Aside from Carroll’s 25 points, Caleb Bennnett had 17 and Q Mays had 15 to lead the Griffon effort.
FHSU shot the ball well inside the 3-point line, where it was 22-of-33 (66.7 percent), but a rough 4-of-22 effort beyond the 3-point line (18.2 percent) dropped FHSU’s overall shooting percentage to just 47.3 percent for the game.
The Griffons struggled just as much beyond the 3-point line to just 22.2 percent, hitting only four 3-point field goals as well, but a 20-of-22 effort at the free-throw line was a big key to them escaping Hays with a win.
The Tigers moved to 11-10 overall with the result and travel to MIAA regular season champion and No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri State on Saturday (Feb. 27). Tipoff in Maryville for the regular season finale is at 3:30 pm.