KEARNEY, Neb. – Fort Hays State dropped its MIAA opener on Tuesday evening (Dec. 3) to Nebraska-Kearney, 74-60. The Tigers led by three at halftime, but the Lopers used a big second half to defend their home floor. Both teams are now 4-3 overall with the Lopers going to 1-0 in MIAA play and the Tigers 0-1.
It was a tale of two halves. Fort Hays State controlled tempo early on and led by as many as 12 in the first half, enjoying a 29-17 lead with about five and a half minutes before halftime. The comfortable lead vanished quickly and UNK ended the half on a 12-3 run to cut the Tiger lead to 32-29 at the break.
The little bit of momentum built by the Lopers at the end of the first half ballooned larger at the start of the second half. UNK opened the second frame on a 33-13 run over nearly 12 minutes of action, shooting a lights-out 14-of-19 (73.7 percent) from the field to dash ahead by 17, 62-45. In that span, the Tigers were just 5-of-14 from the field without a three-point field goal.
The Tigers used an 11-2 burst to cut the lead back down to eight, 64-56, with four minutes to play. However, a Tiger team that had been very solid at the free-throw line so far this year struggled at the wrong times. FHSU entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in free-throw percentage (84.1), but shot just 66.7 percent (14-of-21) on Tuesday night. FHSU left several points on the table in the first half by going just 10-of-16. A miss on the first of a one-and-one situation with three minutes to go, the only Tiger miss at the line in the second half, dashed the chance of pulling within seven or six. About 20 seconds later, Chase Winchester delivered the dagger with a three-point field goal pushing the UNK lead back to 11.
After FHSU held UNK to 40.9 percent shooting in the first half, UNK shot 62.1 percent after the break to finish at 52.9 percent for the game. The Lopers were a solid 80 percent at the free-throw line in both halves. FHSU finished at 42 percent from the field and hit just four 3-point field goals.
Devin Davis led the Tigers with a double-double effort of 15 points and 10 rebounds, and led the team with six assists. Jared Vitztum had 14 points and seven rebounds. Alvin Thompson (11) and Nyjee Wright (10) also reached double figures in scoring.
Jake Walker led UNK with 20 points, which included four 3-point field goals, followed by Morgan Soucie with 16. AJ Jackson and Noah Valasek each had 11.
The Tigers will look to rebound at Emporia State on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 3:30 pm at White Auditorium in Emporia.