Defense has been both an area of concern and a point of strength at times for the Fort Hays State men’s basketball team during the Tigers' non-conference slate so far.
Fort Hays opened the season by giving up 89 points to Sioux Falls and 96 points to Southwest Minnesota in at the MIAA/NSIC Challenge in Marshall, Minn.
But the Tigers have also turned in a couple lockdown performances, including Tuesday’s 71-46 win against Central Christian, an NAIA program that came in averaging 91 points per game.
The Tigers will be looking for consistency on the defensive end as they head into MIAA play, beginning with next Tuesday's conference opener against Nebraska-Kearney at 7:30 p.m. in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“We’re inconsistent defensively,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. “I think at times we’ve shown we can guard. We have some good moments, and obviously in Minnesota we had some bad moments.
“We want to keep building on being consistent, not only game to game, but possession to possession. And then we just need to be stronger with the ball. Again (Tuesday) we had more turnovers (14) than assists. We just got to do a little better in those two areas.”
After five games in 11 days, Johnson said the 4-3 Tigers are welcoming the week between games before beginning conference play.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of a break here,” Johnson said. “We haven’t been able to get a lot of practice in here in this 11-day stretch; we’ve just played so many games. Hopefully we can go back and review where we need to get better, and just have, not a physical rest, but a mental rest.”
The Tigers are averaging 77.4 points a game while giving up 71.1 on the season. Brady Werth leads FHSU 13.3 points a game while Marcus Cooper and Aaron Nicholson are averaging 12.9 and 10.1, respectively.
Nebraska-Kearney sits 3-3, facing Mount Marty College on Saturday before entering conference play against the Tigers. The Lopers are coming off an 87-58 loss to Wayne State on Tuesday.
Fort Hays will then play Emporia State at 4 p.m. on Saturday next week at home.
“That’s a big week — you like it and you don’t like it,” Johnson said. “You like the fact that it’s nice to have two home games to start the season off, but that puts a lot of pressure on you. Our league is really good again. The depth this year is better than I think it ever has been. You just can’t afford to lose two home games coming out of the block.
“We need to be really prepared, really locked in and ready to go, because that next week is really important to our season."
FHSU WOMEN HOST MISSOURI VALLEY ON SATURDAY
The No. 10-ranked Fort Hays State women’s basketball team will look to move to 6-0 when the Tigers face Missouri Valley College at 2 p.m. Saturday in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Lanie Page leads the Tigers with 12.6 points per game. Tatyana Legette is averaging 11.4 points and 9 rebounds while Kacey Kennett adds 10.2 points a game.
Missouri Valley, an NAIA school located in Marshall, Mo., sits 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the Heart of America Conference heading into Thursday night's game against Baker.