Tigers end long losing streak to Bearcats


Fort Hays State finally put an end to a long 16-game losing streak to Northwest Missouri State on Thursday night (Dec. 7). The Tigers knocked off the No. 17 ranked Bearcats by a score of 57-49 at Gross Memorial Coliseum. FHSU improved to 6-2 overall, 2-1 in the MIAA, and NWMSU dropped to 5-3 overall and also 2-1 in the MIAA.

The result marked the first home win for FHSU over an NABC ranked team since the 2018-19 season, and it marked the first win over NWMSU since the 2012-13 season. That was the last season Northwest Missouri State did not win the MIAA title, as they are on a 10-year run of winning at least a share of the regular season title (8 times outright) since then. Fort Hays State and Central Missouri tied for the regular season title in 2012-13. The Bearcats have also won four national titles since the 2017 season.

The Tigers used their usual brand of suffocating defense to end the streak, holding the Bearcats to their lowest scoring output in the series between the teams since FHSU joined the MIAA. The last time FHSU held NWMSU inside of 50 points was during the 1949-50 season, allowing 49 in Maryville and just 44 in Hays that season. FHSU held NWMSU to 35.9 percent shooting from the field and just 12.5 percent (2-of-16) from beyond the 3-point arc.

The first half was a defensive standoff, with FHSU coming out of the scrum with a 20-19 lead by halftime. The Bearcats started the game on a 6-0 run, only to see Bjarni Jonsson and Kaleb Hammeke can a pair of 3-point field goals to even the score. NWMSU nudged back ahead by six once again at 17-11, only to see the Tigers pull back even again with three straight field goals. The Tigers finally took the lead for the first time on a Jonsson 3-point shot with about six seconds remaining in the opening half. NWMSU shot 38.1 percent in the opening half, compared to just 30.4 percent for FHSU.

Foul calls came more frequently in the second half as the teams combined to shoot 35 free throws following the break. Each team only attempted three charity tosses in the first half. The Bearcats (17-of-19) outscored the Tigers (12-of-16) by five at the line in the second half, but the Tigers were able to hold the Bearcats to just six field goals in the second half compared to 11 by the Tigers. The Tigers forced a duplicate 1-of-8 performance beyond the 3-point line from the Bearcats, which was their first half performance from deep as well. The Tigers held Wes Dreamer, Northwest Missouri State’s top 3-point shooter, to an 0-of-8 effort from deep in the game. Dreamer, who averaged north of 17 points per game entering the contest, was held to just six points and a 2-of-13 shooting performance overall. The Tigers also held Bearcat leading scorer Bennett Stirtz to just nine points in the game.

Northwest Missouri State reached its largest lead of six points for the third time in the game before stormed back on an 11-0 run over about a span of 4:30. R.J. Crawford triggered the run with a 3-point field goal, then Shaun Riley dropped a bucket before Kaleb Hammeke pushed the Tigers in front with an old-fashioned 3-point play. Hammeke extended the Tiger lead to five moments later with a big 3-point field goal from the left wing. From that point, the Tiger lead teetered between three and five points for a while until another Crawford three pushed the lead to six with 7:16 to go.

A 4-0 burst by the Tigers on field goals by Elijah Nnanabu and Crawford pushed the Tiger lead to eight with just under five minutes to play. The Tiger lead would reach eight three more times before the final horn, including the final margin.

Crawford led the Tigers with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. He was 3-of-5 beyond the 3-point line and 3-of-4 at the free-throw line. Hammeke and Nnanabu each finished with 13 points and both contributed a team-high three assists. Shaun Rileypulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Daniel Abreu was the only Bearcat to finish in double figures scoring with 10 points. Isaiah Jackson pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and matched Stirtz in assists, each with three.

Fort Hays State prepares for another stiff test on Saturday (Dec. 9) when it hosts No. 22 ranked Missouri Western. The Griffons took their first loss of the season on Thursday night at Nebraska-Kearney on a half-court heave at the buzzer. The Griffons enter at 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the MIAA.

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