By FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Fort Hays State led by 17 points with five minutes to go, but held off a late charge by Missouri Western to win 76-71 on Monday (Jan. 24) at MWSU Fieldhouse. The win pushed the Tigers to 14-3 overall and 9-3 in the MIAA, while the Griffons fell to 8-10 overall and 4-6 in the MIAA.
An early 7-0 burst gave Missouri Western an early 13-5 lead, but the Tigers came storming back out of the first media break and went on a 31-12 run for nearly 12 minutes to jump ahead and take an 11-point lead at 36-25. But with some trapping pressure late in the first half, the Griffons went on an 8-0 run to end the half and cut the Tiger lead down to three at 36-33.
The Tigers took their lead back into double figures at the 14:53 mark of the second half and kept it there all the way up until two and a half minutes remaining in the game. The Tigers looked to have the game nearly put away, leading by 17 (68-51) with 6:10 to play, and reached the 17-point margin three times in the second half. However, the Griffons made a late push and outscored the Tigers 20-8 over the final six minutes of the contest. The Tigers did enough at the free-throw line inside a minute to hold off the charge.
Jared Vitztum picked up another double-double, leading the Tigers with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Nyjee Wright, who led the Tigers in the first half with 12 points, finished with 16 and produced a team-high four assists. Bjarni Jonsson was a big offensive spark in the game, finishing with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Kaleb Hammeke had 11 of his 13 points after halftime.
The Tigers shot a new season-high 54.9 percent overall as a team and a very efficient 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) beyond the 3-point line. The Griffons also shot the ball well at 60.9 percent from the field, which is the high by a Tiger opponent this season. JaQuaylon Mays led the Griffons in scoring with 18 points, followed by Taye Fields with 15 and JaRon Thames with 14.
The Tigers now turn their focus to a road contest at Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday (Jan. 29). Tipoff will be at 4 pm inside the Health and Sports Center, which follows the women’s contest at 2 pm.