BY TRISTAN SASSE
After suffering a loss in overtime to Southwest Baptist last Saturday, the Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team was back in action looking to rebound against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers. The Tigers took command early and often, as FHSU came away with a 78-69 victory. Fort Hays is now 11-5 on the season, including 4-3 in the MIAA.
The Lopers took an early 5-0 lead, but the Tigers answered with an 8-2 run. At the 13:53 mark of the first half, it was tied at 10. Brady Werth had eight of the first 10 points for FHSU. Midway through the opening half, Fort Hays held a slight 14-12 advantage. Both teams were shooting below 40% in the first 10 minutes.
Soon after, a quick burst by the Tigers extended their lead to seven. With 5:23 left in the half, FHSU took a double-digit lead, at 23-13. Fort Hays maintained their lead and would head into the locker room with a 29-20 advantage.
Overall, the Tigers shot 44% in the opening half, while holding the Lopers to 24.1% (7-29), including 0-of-12 from three-point range. Additionally, UNK out-rebounded FHSU 20-18 but had six turnovers and only two assists. Fort Hays finished the half with five assists and four turnovers. The Tigers relied heavily on defense in the first half, which including five blocks.
FHSU focused on post play in the first half. Werth led the Tigers with eight points, while Hadley Gillum added six points and seven rebounds. For the Lopers, Lane Rohrich led UNK with eight points. Trey Lansman added eight points and seven rebounds.
Fort Hays began the second half with three straight scoring possessions to extend their lead to 15. With under 15 minutes remaining in the game, FHSU led 39-25. The Lopers looked like they were slowly starting to crawl back and trimmed the lead to 11, but after a pair of jumpers by the Tigers, the lead was again stretched to 15 points. Midway through the half, Fort Hays was leading 53-39.
The Tigers seemed to have an answer for every attempt at a Loper comeback. FHSU held a steady double-digit advantage for the majority of the second half. With under five minutes remaining, UNK pulled within nine, at 64-55. The Lopers weren’t able to pull any closer than eight points in the second half. Fort Hays would lead by as many as 17 points in the game and come away with a 78-69 victory.
By the Numbers
On the night, FHSU shot 58% from the field and 6-for-9 beyond the arc. The Lopers out-rebounded the Tigers 30-28, including 10 offensive rebounds, but had 11 turnovers and just 10 assists. Meanwhile, Fort Hays had 14 assists and 10 turnovers. FHSU’s bench also played a major role, contributing 23 points.
Gillum continued to be a major factor for the Tigers, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. Jared Vitztum added 15 points off the bench. Werth had 14 points, while Marcus Cooper added 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
For UNK, Trey Lansman finished with 27 points (19 in the second half) and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Rohrich was the only other Loper in double figures, by adding 21 points, six assists, and three rebounds.
On Thursday, January 18, the Tigers (11-5 overall, 4-3 in MIAA) will remain home to take on Missouri Western (3-11, 1-6). Additionally, on Thursday, UNK (6-10, 2-5) will host No. 4 Northwest Missouri State (14-1, 6-1).