TOPEKA — The Fort Hays State men used a second-half run to put itself in a position to notch a key road win, but Washburn snatched that opportunity away with a big run of its own.
After trailing by 12 early in the second half, FHSU took control and opened up a 67-60 advantage with 6:19 left, but Washburn closed the game on a 20-6 run to hand the Tigers an 80-73 loss on Saturday at Lee Arena.
“They did a great job at the end of the game,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said of the Ichabods. “I was really proud of our guys. We were down 12 in the second half and kind of took it from there and kind of took control of the game, played at our tempo and got the ball where we wanted it to go.
“On their home floor, you knew they were going to make a run."
Washburn drew within a point with 3:32 left after five straight points from David Salach and then took the lead for good a bucket from Javion Blake with 3:10 left.
Salach erupted for a career-high 24 points while Blake finished with 19, scoring 13 in the second half.
"We didn’t have an answer for Salach all game, and then Blake really went on a spurt that got them to win the game," Johnson said.
A 3-pointer by Fort Hays’ Brady Werth brought the Tigers within two with 1:31 left before a layup from WU's Tyler Geiman and two free throws by Blake helped the Bods put FHSU away.
The Tigers dropped to 12-5 overall and 6-2 in the MIAA while Washburn moved to 13-3 overall and 6-1 in the MIAA. FHSU had four costly turnovers in the last six minutes.
“I told the guys, when you get in a game like that, all you need is one or two more defensive stops or have somebody step up and finish a play or make a shot one or two more times, and it goes the other way,” Johnson said. “It’s such a fine line when you’re coming down the stretch of who wins and who doesn’t.”
Fort Hays, which trailed 38-34 at halftime, was led by Marcus Cooper’s 21 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Werth finished with 20 and Nyjee Wright had 11 off the bench.
Cooper was 6 of 15 from the field and 8 of 9 from the foul line.
“The way they pressure you and don’t let you run your stuff, you got to be able to put your head down and get to the rim and make some things happen,” Johnson said. “(Cooper) was able to do that. He got to the foul line.
“Nyjee (Wright) was big. I thought he made some nice plays for us when we needed scoring.”
Washburn was 29 of 52 from the field while FHSU was 29 of 52.
With a road win at Emporia State on Wednesday, Johnson said it was still a solid week for the Tigers.
“This was almost a great week,” he said. “It was still a really good week. Right now, the way it unfolded, you’re a little disappointed now, but I thought we played well and that’s what you’re trying to do — get better, get better. I thought we played fairly well today, we just didn’t play well enough in the last stretch of the game.”