BY MAKENNA ALLEN
As the Tiger basketball season continues this week, both the men’s and women’s teams are looking to bounce back from losses in last weekend’s games. The men are now 3-4 this season and the women are 5-1, but this week’s double-header will alter these figures for both Tiger teams.
On the schedule this week are Thursday evening games against the University of Central Missouri and Saturday match-ups against Lincoln University.
First to play on the road will be the Tiger women who recently fell in their first loss of the season to the Emporia State Hornets. The close game ended in a one-point loss for the Tigers. FHSU had a chance to win at the buzzer; however, senior forward Whitney Randall’s jumper just missed.
Over the course of the back-and-forth game, senior Jaden Hobbs led the team with 16 points. Randall added 12 points of her own to the final 62-61 score. Meanwhile, true freshman, Katie Wagner, recorded her first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Throughout the game, the Tigers were 39.7% from the floor and 21.1% from beyond the arc. Though the Tigers outrebounded the Hornets 41-34, ESU forced 18 Tiger turnovers. This is in contrast to the team’s season average of just 12.5 turnovers per game.
According to women’s basketball head coach, Tony Hobson, this uncharacteristically high number could be attributed partially to Emporia’s unique defense.
Though the Tigers allowed 18 turnovers, they forced 17 of their own, a figure Hobson believes can be the natural result of a high-pressure game environment.
“In a tight game with two good teams going after each other, you’re going to have more turnovers,” Hobson said.
Despite their struggles and ultimate loss, Hobson suggests he learned valuable information regarding his team’s identity.
“We took a lot away from it. I found out, number one, that they definitely weren’t going to quit. We had a lot of fight in us when we got behind and buckled down and made two good runs at them when we were down by nine in the second half,” Hobson said. “We found out that our kids will hang in there and play till the last horn for sure.”
In order to be successful in Warrensburg, MO on Thursday, the Tigers must be willing to play with their full strength until that final horn. Indeed, the Central Missouri Jennies remain undefeated at 6-0 this season.
In UCM’s last game on Dec. 17 against Washburn, the Jennies emerged victorious by a 22-point margin. The Jennies’ most narrow win this season was a nine-point victory over Northwest Missouri State early in December.
As the Jennies prepare to host the Tigers this week, they are currently shooting 45.1% from the field, 35.3% from beyond the arc, and 79.5% from the free-throw line. They also average 73.3-points per game.
While the team graduated a strong class of seniors last year, a combination of talented freshmen and experienced upperclassmen to accomplish what Hobson believes is a notable feat.
“I’m impressed that they seem to have recovered nicely from losing the top two players in the conference last year. Who can recover that quickly? That’s pretty impressive,” Hobson said. “While they might not be as good as they were last year, they’re still pretty good. It looks like they reloaded pretty well.”
Central Missouri is not the only opponent on the schedule for the Tiger women this week. While already in Missouri, the team will travel to Jefferson City to take on the Lincoln University Blue Tigers. In contrast to Fort Hays’ prior opponent, the Blue Tigers sit at 0-5 for the season.
Their most recent loss came at the hands of Central Missouri when the Blue Tigers fell 92-69 to the Jennies on Dec. 12 before their game against Washburn was postponed. The Lincoln team will also take on the undefeated Nebraska-Kearney Lopers on Thursday.
As Lincoln looks to pick up its first win this season, the team averages 38.2% from the field, 28.0% from behind the 3-point arc, and 67.0% from the free-throw line.
While the Tiger women prepare for games against teams on opposite ends of the spectrum in MIAA conference play, the Fort Hays men’s team plans to travel to the same locations.
Similar to the women’s team, the Tiger men are hoping to come back from a loss to the Missouri Western Griffons last weekend. Though the Tigers fell 84-76, their largest loss of the season, five players still scored in the double-digits for FHSU.
Redshirt freshman, Kaleb Hammeke, recorded the highest figure for the team with 18 points. Senior forward Jared Vitztum followed close behind with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his fifth double-double this season. Other Tigers to score in the double digits were Quinten Rock (14 points), Bjarni Jonsson (12 points), and Gilbert Peters (11 points).
Though the effort of these Tigers allowed the team to take a small lead early in the game, Fort Hays was unable to grasp victory when Missouri Western pulled away and managed to maintain its lead as the clock ran down.
Now, the Tigers are preparing for victory on the road, first against the Central Missouri Mules. UCM is currently 1-6, with its sole victory over Pittsburg State during the second week of the season. More recently, the Mules are on a four-game losing streak. On Dec. 19, the Mules lost by nine points to Emporia State.
As they look to snap this four-game losing streak, the Mules are 44.3% from the field, 36.3% from beyond the three-point arc, and 77.2% from the free-throw line.
The Tigers’ second opponent of the weekend holds a record of 4-2. In fact, the Lincoln Blue Tigers are on a two-game winning streak with their most recent victories over Emporia State and Pittsburg State.
The Blue Tigers proved to be the team strong enough to deal the now 5-1 Emporia State men’s team its only loss of the season. Thus, the Tigers must be prepared to tip-off against the team that is now 45.2% from the field, 37.0% from behind the arc, and 65.6% from the free-throw line.
Though both Tiger teams may be on the road this week, you can still watch by logging on to the MIAA network page to access a live stream of the games. Thursday’s games against Central Missouri begin at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, the women will tip-off against Lincoln at 1:00 p.m. while the men will play at 3:00 p.m.