A 73-58 road win at Southwest Baptist this past Saturday has all the makings of being a breakthrough performance for the Fort Hays State men's basketball team if the Tigers can replicate it.
FHSU got the better of the Bearcats in just about every area and picked up a much-needed road win to move to 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the MIAA.
The Tigers will look to take the momentum into a pair of home games this week, facing Northeastern State (6-7) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Central Oklahoma (7-6) at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"I thought it was the most complete game we've had all year — all the way from the offensive end to the defensive end," FHSU senior forward Brady Werth said. "We had guys that weren't holding their roles on defense, and it's clicking in their heads that they got to get down and defend before they can go put the ball in the hoop."
FHSU coach Mark Johnson was pleased with the SBU game on multiple levels. The improved bench play was one area that stood out, with junior forward Devin Davis and redshirt freshman guard Nyjee Wright combining for 16 points off the bench.
"We need (the bench) to be more involved," Johnson said. "We probably need to cut the minutes down for some of those other guys. I think with fresher legs, maybe we're shooting the ball better. At Baptist, some of these guys got down to 20, 21 instead of over 30 (minutes).
"I think Devin is not pressing as much. He's letting the game come to him much more since we got back from Christmas. ... And Nyjee's biggest thing is just be aggressive. Nyjee gets too passive out there; that's kind of his personality. Just try to go make plays; I thought he did that against Baptist."
Both NSU and UCO are 0-4 in conference play so far, but Johnson said the records are misleading with three of the four losses coming against Missouri Southern, Northwest Missouri and Pittsburg State, all teams that could finish in the top tier in the league.
"We're playing two teams this week that are 0-4 in conference and I think they're the two best conference teams we've played so far this year," Johnson said.
Johnson said it's crucial for the Tigers to take care of the games at home with the tougher part of the schedule looming.
"The schedule gets very hard after this," Johnson said. "This is a very important week for us to find a way to win some games because you start going on the road and you look at the standings and the teams you predict to be the best teams in the league, and we haven't played them yet. We're going to start playing them — and a couple of them we're going to play twice — so we've got to find a way to have success this week for sure."
FHSU women look to keep rolling
The Fort Hays State women are coming off arguably their best week in what's been a dream start to the season for the No. 4-ranked Tigers.
FHSU (13-0) took down defending national champions Central Missouri 56-46 on Thursday in a top-15 clash, and then dominated Southwest Baptist 92-67 on Saturday.
"I definitely think we just came out and went as hard as we could," said FHSU sophomore forward Whitney Randall, who matched a career high with 15 points in the SBU win. "Southwest Baptist, we played them so close last year and we knew we had to give them our all because we didn't know what they were up to. We knew it was going to be an interesting game."
FHSU took the drama out of it by the end of the third quarter, opening up a 33-point lead. The victory marked a milestone for 11th-year Tigers' head coach Tony Hobson, who earned his 218th win at FHSU, a program record.
"I want everybody to understand that I'm just a cog in the wheel," Hobson said of the accomplishment. "To get a program that sustains itself, it starts with recruiting good players. You have to have good players for a long number of years. You have to have a good coaching staff that you can trust with your players. You have to have a good administration to give you what is necessary to win.
"It goes right down the line. You cannot do it by yourself. But it starts with getting a good quality person in here — I'm talking about players. Once you do that, and you get a few that can play also, you just kind of keep it rolling."
The Tigers will play host to the Northeastern State at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The struggling RiverHawks enter just 3-10 overall and 0-4 in conference play, but Hobson said Fort Hays will guard against peeking ahead to Saturday's game against Central Oklahoma.
"Northeastern plays an interesting style, because they play a lot of zone, they trap you, they will fullcourt press you some," Hobson said. "They will play with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. They have lost some conference games but they've been right in there.
"It's one of those teams that if you let them get going, they can play you close and they can cause you problems."
Halftime entertainment for Thursday's games will feature popular balancing act performer Tyler Scheuer, who has performed his routine on America's Got Talent, Ripley's Believe it or Not, Regis and Kelly and basketball halftime shows across the country. More information on Scheuer's act can be found at http://www.amazingtyler.com.