BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
For the second game in a row, the Fort Hays State men’s basketball team came away with a dominant win, this time 70-51 over the Pittsburg State Gorillas. The Tigers came into the game 12-3 overall and 7-3 in MIAA games, while the Gorillas were 4-13 and 3-8.
“I thought it was an overall good effort. Especially on the defensive end, we really guarded them well,” said head coach Mark Johnson.
Although each team was a little slow to score in the first five minutes of the game, FHSU eventually rolled to a 38-20 lead at the break behind 15 points from Kaleb Hammeke. They were also aided by a last-second, long three-pointer by Elijah Nnanabu. Johnson mentioned the team’s rebounding as well.
“Obviously in the first half the two things that really stood out were Kaleb Hammeke offensively and our other guys attacked the offensive glass. We had nine offensive rebounds in the first half which led to a lot of layups for us,” he said.
The Tigers were able to score 11 second-chance points off of those nine offensive rebounds in the first half. From there, they scored 32 more points in the second half, including an 11-0 run. They also went 4-6 from the three-point line, resulting in the final score of 70-51.
For the game, FHSU shot 42.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Hammeke led all scorers with 21 points, followed by Jared Vitztum who had 13.
Hammeke and Vitztum also led the team in total rebounds with eight and 16 respectively. With his stats from the game, Vitztum moves to the eighth all-time leading scorer in program history with 1,360 points, and fifth in all-time leading rebounders with 814.
When asked how his team pushed through the slow start, Johnson said it was just the nature of the game.
“You just keep going on each possession, keep working, keep moving, and eventually good things happen,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we necessarily did anything different, we just got a little more confident, a little more comfortable and started making shots.”
The win takes the Tigers to 12-3 overall and 8-3 in the MIAA, making them fourth in conference standings. FHSU will play next at Missouri Western on Monday the 24th in a make-up game that will start at 3:30 P.M., and then again at Nebraska-Kearney on the 29th at 4 P.M.