BY MAKENNA ALLEN
After a busy week of Tiger basketball, the women’s and men’s teams both head into another full schedule of play. This week, the men’s team prepares for three separate opponents. Meanwhile, the Tiger women get ready for a two-game road swing.
Following their defeat of the Missouri Western Griffons Monday night, the women are 14-2. Their nine-game winning streak increased significantly after their three games last week.
Beginning last Thursday, the Tiger women continued their successful homestand with a sound 68-50 victory over the Newman Jets. The Tigers dominated throughout the game and led for all but 84-seconds of play in Gross Memorial Coliseum. During the time, senior forward Whitney Randall led the scoring effort with 16 points.
Randall was also among the top scorers Saturday’s game against the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos. While the senior contributed 14 points to the team’s win, freshmen Jessie Sallach, Olivia Hollenbeck, and Katie Wagner, recorded more than half of the game’s points. In fact, Hollenbeck led the team with 18 points while Sallach recorded 12 of her own.
This group effort allowed the Tigers to defeat the Bronchos 73-58 in their second match-up against the team this season. Ultimately, the Tigers were successful in more areas than just shooting from the field. In fact, on Saturday, the Tigers recorded a season-low of just seven turnovers throughout the course of the game.
The Tigers continued this momentum into their third game in the span of a week. Monday night, the Tigers took on the Missouri Western Griffons. Despite a slow start to the game and recording their lowest shooting percentage this season (32.7%), the Tigers emerged with their ninth straight victory with a final score of 58-49.
Thanks to the Tigers’ strong defensive effort, the team is now tied for first place in the MIAA with Nebraska-Kearney and Central Missouri.
Though his team was able to conclude Monday with a victory, FHSU women’s basketball head coach, Tony Hobson, believes the Tigers’ comparatively flat performance is due to a variety of factors ranging from last-minute schedule changes to the frigid weather.
“We were just sluggish. I think we’re a little tired playing our third game in five days and just a lot of distractions,” Hobson said. “Hopefully, when we do need our best game, we will be able to find that.”
The team will indeed need to find their best game this week’s schedule of games.
On Thursday, the Tigers will head to Claremore, OK., to take on the Rogers State Hillcats for the second time this season. Though the two teams have not tipped off against one another in nearly two months, the Tigers will be looking to build upon their 83-58 victory of the previous meeting.
Since the last time the Tigers took on the Hillcats in Hays, the team has recorded a season record of 5-11. The Hillcats managed a narrow margin of victory over Washburn last Thursday. However, they then fell 79-56 on the road at Emporia.
Though the Hillcat season record may not reflect it, Hobson indicates his team must still be prepared for a game of tough competition.
“They are very capable. They’re better than the team we played last night (Feb. 8) and we’re on the road,” Hobson said. “We’re going to have to step it up and play better than we did or we’ll get upset for sure.”
This Hillcat team will not be the only opponent waiting in Oklahoma for the Tigers. On Saturday, the Tigers will travel on to Tahlequah, OK for their second game of the week. There, they will face the Northeastern State Riverhawks.
The two teams’ first meeting this season resulted in a 20-point victory for the Tigers. Now, the Riverhawks are 4-12 this season. They will head into Saturday’s game after two games of their own against Washburn and Nebraska-Kearney.
As Fort Hays marks the final game of the three-game homestand for the RiverHawks, they head into the match averaging 64.4 points per game. The team is also shooting 40.2% from the field, 72.5% from the line, and 30.2% from beyond the three-point arc. Meanwhile, they average 13.5 turnovers per game.
The women’s Tiger team will not be the only part of the FHSU basketball program to come against these opponents this week.
After successfully defending the Fort in their own stretch of home games, the Tiger men’s basketball team will lead the way for the road swing.
Throughout a unique situation of three road games over the span of four days, the men hope to build upon their three-game winning streak.
“We had a great homestand, really won some important games, had some critical last five minutes of the last two games to give us the chance to keep playing meaningful games here,” FHSU men’s basketball head coach, Mark Johnson, said. “Three in four days on the road is something we haven’t really done in the past.”
This busy week for the team comes on the heels of a full schedule that began Feb. 4 at GMC.
Thursday evening, the men hit the court for a back and forth game against the Newman Jets. Throughout the course of play, fans in GMC saw 11 ties and 11 lead changes. Additionally, neither team led by more than six-points throughout the course of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Tigers were able to triumph 69-64.
25 of the team’s points can be attributed to senior, Jared Vitztum, who also recorded 12 rebounds in his eighth double-double this season. Vitztum leads the NCAA DII with this figure.
Vitztum also found success during Saturday’s Tiger victory over the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos. After fighting back from a deficit several times late in the game, the Tigers managed a two-point victory over the Bronchos.
While the men managed to eek out a victory at home over the Bronchos, Wednesday’s games against the same team will provide another challenge. Indeed, just days after the two teams first met, the Tigers will travel to Edmond, OK to tip-off against the same opponent.
Johnson believes that the game will be similar to the one most recently played in Hays. However, he also suggests that his team will need to remain strong against the powerful Broncho offense while still managing to keep pace offensively.
“Central Oklahoma is really talented,” Johnson said. “I think they’re one of the top two or three most talented teams in our league.”
Today, the 7-8 Tigers will take on the 7-6 Broncho home court before heading to Claremore, OK to take on the Rogers State Hillcats.
This game will mark the second time the two teams have played this season. When the Tigers took on the Rogers State team on Dec. 20, the Tigers emerged with a seven-point victory.
Nearly two months later, the Tigers will play a team that is 7-9 this season and is coming off a win on the road against Emporia last Saturday. However, the Hillcats fell 88-77 at the hands of Washburn just last Thursday. The team averages 74.9 points per game all while shooting 44.5% from the field, 77.0% from long range, and 32.6% from the free throw line.
After their first road game, the men’s Tiger team will head on to face the Northeastern State Riverhawks. The last time the teams played on Dec. 18, the Tigers won 81-76.
Since the time of their defeat, the RiverHawks have gone 2-12 for the season. Their two victories come at the expense of Newman and Missouri Southern. However, the last time the RiverHawks saw competition on Jan., 30, they came up against the Missouri Southern team again and fell short. The high-scoring 100-83 loss left the RiverHawks with a five-game losing streak.
As the team looks to shatter this streak, they are shooting 45.1% from the field, 71.0% from the line, and 31.4% from beyond the three point arc. Additionally, the team averages 31.9 rebounds and 14 turnovers per game.
In facing the slate of opponents this week, Johnson believes his team’s greatest struggle will be in the mental aspect of the game, rather than the physical. However, he believes his team is prepared to win the games that will give the Tiger team a shot at a spot in the conference tournament.
“We’re still a fresh team. I don’t think we’re a team that’s overly mentally and physically fatigued yet,” Johnson said. “I think our guys are still upbeat, excited to go out here on this trip and win some games to try to find a way to make the conference tournament.”
While the FHSU basketball program prepares for a long week of games in Oklahoma, Tiger fans can still do their part to support their favorite teams. They can log on to the MIAA Network homepage to access a live stream of every game slated for the week.
Women’s Basketball Schedule:
- Roger’s State: Thurs., Feb. 11, 5:30 p.m.
- Northeastern State: Sat., Feb. 13, 1:30 p.m.
Men’s Basketball Schedule:
- University of Central Oklahoma: Wed., Feb. 10, 3:30 p.m.
- Roger’s State: Thurs., Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
- Northeastern State: Sat., Feb. 13, 3:30 p.m.