Tigers rally to beat Central Missouri


Fort Hays State turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a five-point win on Thursday night (Jan. 6) at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers rallied past the Mules of Central Missouri in the second half to win 64-59 in the first of two meetings scheduled between the teams this season. FHSU, ranked No. 22 in the latest D2SIDA Top 25 Poll, moved to 11-2 overall, 6-2 MIAA, while UCM dropped to 6-6, 3-5 in the MIAA.

Fort Hays State had a rough time shooting the ball in the first half, but still played strong enough defense to only trail 29-20 at halftime in another contest where every possession was critical. FHSU went without scoring for over seven minutes from the 8:48 mark to the 1:33 mark as UCM put together a 12-0 run to take a 27-16 lead. The Tigers managed to get the margin back inside 10 by halftime.

After shooting just 26.9 percent from the field in the first half, FHSU would heat up to shoot 54.5 percent after halftime and climb past the Mules just past the midway point of the second half. The Tigers trimmed the lead to four twice and then finally took it down to three with 11:31 remaining. Following a UCM bucket, the Tigers went on a 10-0 run fueled by a pair of 3-point makes by Nyjee Wright and capped by a 3-point bucket from Jared Vitztum to put the Tigers on top by five with 7:50 to play. Wright’s first make pulled the Tigers within one, and then his second gave them their first lead of the second half at with nine minutes to go.

Fort Hays State held onto the lead from there on out, seeing UCM cut the lead to two twice. A 7-1 burst by the Tigers capped on a Quinten Rock 3-point field goal with 1:54 to play extended the lead to eight and the Tigers were able to keep the Mules from making any late threat.

The Tigers once again held an opponent to less than 60 points in a game, the 11th time in 13 contests this season. The Tigers continue to lead NCAA Division II in scoring defense, seeing their average elevate just a smidge from 55.9 points allowed per game to 56.2. The Tigers have held the opposition to less than 60 in all but one of their 11 wins this season.

Wright led the Tigers with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Vitztum added 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Rock provided 11 points to lead the Tiger reserves. Gilbert Peters was also a nice spark off the bench with nine points. Kaleb Hammeke matched his career high in assists with nine.

Cameron Hunter led UCM in scoring with 17 points, while dishing out a team-high four assists. Ja’Cor Nelson added 14 points to cap the double-figure scorers, while adding a team-high six rebounds for the Mules.

The Tigers will now have nearly a week off due to their contest on Saturday being postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Lincoln men’s basketball program. They will host defending national champion and No. 2 ranked Northwest Missouri State on Wednesday next week (Jan. 12).

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