BY MAKENNA ALLEN
Tiger basketball is back this weekend but it won’t be in Hays. Instead, the men’s team will hit the road, headed for Nebraska to tip off against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers.
The women’s team was initially set to travel to Kearney as well. However, the game has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. This would have been their second game of the season after a 75-69 victory over Washburn on Tuesday.
During the rescheduled match-up, senior forward, Whitney Randall, led the charge, setting a career high of 26-points.
“I was just really excited to play. We’ve been in preseason for a very long time and we had a couple of games postponed. I was really bummed and then going into quarantine. I was really ready to get going,” Randall said. “That’s what pushed me, especially when Jaden fouled out and me and Maddie [Mittie] and Cydney Bergmann experienced out there, I just felt like I needed to push myself and step up my game today.”
While Randall stepped up her game, true freshman guard, Katie Wagner, added 17-points of her own to contribute to the 31-points combined points scored by all four true freshmen.
Overall, the Tigers were 43.8% from the floor and out-rebounded the Ichabods 20-12 in the second half.
While the women’s was hoping to pick up their second victory of the season prior to the game’s postponement, the men’s team is attempting to come back from a two game losing streak after they dropped both of their first home games by two points each.
Thurs., Nov. 19, the men’s team fell to the Ichabods, 80-78. After a back-and-forth game, the Tigers ultimately lost after a buzzer-beating three-pointer gave the Ichabods the lead. The second loss for the Tigers came in similar fashion as Fort Hays clashed with Emporia in a game that saw 14 lead changes, 12 ties, and a lead that was never more than four points. During that time, the Tigers shot 40% from the field and 81.5% from the free-throw line but only 19% beyond the 3-point arc.
For men’s head coach, Mark Johnson, there was no single area of focus that lost his Tigers the first two games of the season.
“It was just a combination of things. I don’t think there was one thing to close those games out,” Johnson said. “It was a lot of things. We missed a lot of important free throws. We had some untimely turnovers late in the game. We had some defensive breakdowns and guys had a shot.”
Now, after two weeks off from competition, the men’s team will be travelling to Kearney with attention on their defensive play.
“How you win close games is play good defense,” Johnson said. “You get a defensive stop then you have to get the rebound and then go down on offense and don’t turn it over. If you do those three things, you’re probably going to win the game.”
Though the Tigers may be hoping to pull in their first win of the season with an improvement in defense, the Lopers are also on the hunt for a victory. Similar to the Fort Hays men, UNK is 0-2 after suffering losses to Washburn and Emporia in the first week of play.
Though the Lopers were defeated by the same teams that beat Fort Hays in their first two games, Johnson believes that his team will face a different level of play this week in Kearney. Indeed, after playing their first games down three starters, Johnson predicts that the Lopers will now be at full strength and playing without the nerves that may have affected their initial matches.
While the Lopers look to finally play a game with all starters, the Tigers prepare for the competition experience the young team needs beyond the practice court.
“I think this team, we need more game experience,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of our problem is being out there and not being confident and comfortable yet, you know, a young team experiencing things for the first time. For better or for worse, we need more games under their belt.”
With this goal of gaining experience, the relatively young Tiger basketball team hits the road for Nebraska on Saturday, tipping off at 4:00 p.m.. The game can be viewed on The MIAA Network.
The women’s game at UNK will be postponed until a later date to be announced.