After a sluggish first half, the Fort Hays State men used a 3-point barrage to shake off the rust in their return from the holiday break.
The Tigers were up just a point against McPherson College at halftime but dominated the second half, notching their sixth straight victory with an 82-54 win over the Bulldogs on Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Hays (8-3) outscored McPherson 52-25 in the second half, pulling away behind nine 3-pointers after halftime.
“It was a good second half, good win,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. “It’s always difficult when you come out of 13 days of not playing a game and nine days of not being able to do anything with our team including practice. It probably showed a little in the first half.”
The Tigers broke out of the funk with torrid shooting, going 20 of 32 (62.5 percent) from the field in the second half.
“When you make shots, it makes you look good. When you miss shots, it makes you look bad,” Johnson said. “First half we’re three of twelve from three. The second half we’re nine of seventeen. I do think you shoot it better when you’re more locked in, you’re more intense, you’re more focused, and I thought we were in the second half. But sometimes the ball goes in and it makes you look like you’re playing well.”
Senior forward Brady Werth and senior guard Marcus Cooper combined for 39 points on 14 of 23 shooting. Werth led the Tigers with 20 points, going 7 of 11 from the field and 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Cooper scored 14 of his 19 points after halftime and finished 7 of 12 from the field and 4 of 8 from behind the arc.
“The first half, everybody was not going so hard. We weren’t playing the right way,” Cooper said. “But second half, we came out with a purpose. We came out to play Fort Hays State basketball and that’s what we did.”
FHSU broke away from the Bulldogs with a 22-3 run to begin the second half. The Tigers knocked down five 3-pointers during the big run — two each from Jared Vitztum and Cooper and one from Aaron Nicholson.
“We just tell ‘em to keep shooting,” Cooper said. “You miss a shot, who cares? Keep shooting, get your confidence up. Let the ball fly. That’s what we’re known for doing, letting the ball fly.”
The Tigers saw Aaron Nicholson and Trey O’Neil leave the game in the second half with injuries that appeared to be minor. Nicholson sat out the last 11:35 after suffering a cut to his head after drawing a charge, while O’Neil exited with 6:55 left with an ankle injury.
“(Nicholson) got four stitches and no concussion or anything,” Johnson said. “…. I think going forward he should be fine for Thursday’s game. Trey has an ankle sprain. I think it’s minor but we’ll see how lasting it is.”
McPherson was led by Lual Magot’s 12 points while Josh Rivers and Frederick Watts each had 10.
The Tigers finished 32 of 60 from the floor for 53.3 percent while McPherson was 19 of 51 for 37.3 percent.
Fort Hays will return to conference play against Central Missouri at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Warrensburg, Mo.