Tiger men handle Nebraska-Kearney 64-46; improve to 8-0

BY RAEGAN NEUFELD

The Tigers extended their undefeated record to 8-0 on Saturday, beating Nebraska-Kearney 64-46. The eight-game win streak is the best start for the men’s basketball team in a decade. 

Fort Hays began the game on an 8-0 before the Lopers scored their first points four minutes into the game. After that, the Tiger defense held Nebraska-Kearney to a 23.8 field goal percentage and 14.3% from three-point range, resulting in just 12 points the whole first half. While the Lopers improved offensively in the second half, particularly behind the arc where they shot 46.7%, it was not enough to stop the Tigers. 

“The first half we were tremendous defensively,” Head Coach Mark Johnson said. “It was a great team effort and I think we showed a lot of toughness.”

“They’ve had a lot of close losses,” senior Jared Vitztum added. “It was nice to jump on them in the first half. We just kept playing hard and that was the key to the game.”

It was a typical day for Vitztum, as he scored 20 points and added 12 rebounds. Kaleb Hammeke led all scorers with 21 points, and Nyjee Wright chipped in with eight.

“Those guys got the points and the stats, but Gabe [Pieschl] and Bjarni [Jonsson] and Geoff [Hamperian], and a lot of these guys do a lot of the little things to help us win that maybe don’t show up in the stats,” Johnson said.

At this time last year, the Tigers were just 3-5. Johnson cited healed injuries and experience to be the difference makers.

“Last year we had three guys out with a broken foot, and the guys that were playing were young,” he said. “The adversity and the negative things we went through last year because of injuries and youth, have now really paid dividends for us.”

“We’re just going to keep playing defense like we have. That’s our main focus,” Vitztum said. “And we’re going to keep working hard on offense as well, it’s getting a little better each game.”

Fort Hays will be back in action against the University of Central Oklahoma (7-2) at 7:30 p.m. on December 17 at Gross Memorial Coliseum. 

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