KEARNEY, Neb. — A solid defensive effort on the road couldn’t save the Fort Hays State men’s basketball team from the offensive woes that plagued the Tigers throughout Saturday's game at Nebraska-Kearney.
Both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm, but Kearney made enough plays to keep the Tigers at bay down the stretch, handing Fort Hays a 59-56 loss at UNK’s Health and Sports Center.
The Lopers shot 36.4 percent from the field but FHSU wasn't much better, shooting at a 37.3 clip and going 5 of 20 from 3-point range.
“You hold your opponent to 36-percent shooting and you force them into 15 turnovers — you have to win that game. I mean, you have to win that game,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. “As good as those numbers were for us defensively, that’s how bad it was offensively.”
FHSU (13-7, 7-4 MIAA) led by a point with 14:32 left but UNK went on a 17-6 run and never relinquished the lead.
The Lopers (7-13, 2-9 MIAA) pushed the lead to 10 with 4:38 remaining. FHSU cut it to four on a 3-pointer from Devin Davis with 18 seconds left. The Tigers forced a tie-up but Brady Werth missed a 3 with 10 seconds left to end FHSU’s chances at a rally.
“For whatever reason, we really play bad up here,” Johnson said. “Give Kearney credit, I thought they did a really good job on Brady and made it hard on him to catch it where he wanted to catch it.”
The Tigers went into the first half trailing 33-27 after shooting 34.5 percent.
“We did a terrible job first half, I felt, of running our offense,” Johnson said. “Just too much standing and holding the ball.”
Aaron Nicholson led the Tigers with 15 points while Brady Werth and Devin Davis each had 11 and Kyler Kinnamon had 10.
“Really, Aaron Nicholson was about the only bright light we had offensively,” Johnson said. “We just struggled. I think you’ve got to give Kearney credit for that. If we’re going to take credit on the defensive end for holding them to 36 (percent), then you’ve got to give them credit for holding us to 37.”
A.J. Jackson scored a game-high 22 points for the Lopers and was joined in double figures by Kanon Koster (13) and Chase Winchester (11).
The Tigers will play at Pittsburg State on Thursday.