Tigers pull away, beat Avila


Fort Hays State struggled a bit early against Avila University on Monday evening (Dec. 6) at Gross Memorial Coliseum, but eventually pulled away in the second half for a 75-59 win. The Tigers moved to 7-0 overall, their best start since 2013-14, against the 4-7 Eagles.

The Tigers could not shake off the Eagles in the first half. Avila shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent beyond the 3-point line (7-of-14) to stay within one point of the Tigers at halftime. Avila led twice in the first half at 11-10 and 14-12. The Tigers had a 14-2 run to build a 10-point lead, but saw Avila counter with a 17-7 run to get the game tied at 33-33. A Kaleb Hammeke 3-point field goal capped the scoring for the Tigers in the first half and an Avila 2-point bucket just before the horn left the Tigers with just the one-point lead at the break.

The Tigers clamped down on the Avila attack in the second half, forcing the Eagles to shoot just 31 percent from the field and 22.2 percent beyond the 3-point line. While doing so, the Tigers opened the half on an 18-9 run to build a 10-point advantage once again. Avila would not get any closer than eight points from that point and the Tigers enjoyed their largest lead of 22 points with about 50 seconds remaining on the clock. Avila hit two more 3-point field goals before the final horn to bring the final margin back to 16.

Hammeke led the Tigers with a near double-double effort of 23 points and nine assists. The nine helpers were a new career high in a game for Hammeke. He shot 9-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 beyond the 3-point line, while making both of his charity tosses. Jared Vitztum produced his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He was 6-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line. Nyjee Wright was the only other Tiger to reach double figures in scoring with 13 points.

Eric Smith, Jr. led the scoring effort for Avila with 11 points, followed by Tyree King and Jaylin Dinkins each with 10. Smith finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds to his 11 points.

The Tigers will now have until the weekend to prepare for their next MIAA contest. Long-time rival Nebraska-Kearney comes to town on Saturday (Dec. 11) for an MIAA showdown. The men are set to tip off at 4 pm, which follows the women’s contest at 2 pm.

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