In the second game of the 2017-18 season, Fort Hays State University junior forward Brady Werth went into beast mode. He dumped in a team-high 30 points, hitting 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
The game ultimately ended in an overtime loss to Sioux Falls as the Tigers started 1-1 in a two-day road swing.
After that, though, the 6-foot-7, 225-pounder out of Hays High School went into an offensive lull of sorts, particularly against NCAA Division II opponents Colorado School of Mines and Missouri Southern State University, teams he scored just five points against combined. They also happened to be games where the big man fouled out, picking up some early ones and limiting his action.
“It’s been a big issue,” Werth said. “That limits your playing time. Thought about it more recently. I wasn’t used to getting in foul trouble that bad.”
The junior was able to clean things and adjust to the flow of the game in the Tigers’ victory against Pittsburg State University on Saturday. He notched his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“Getting out there and getting some playing time. That helps a lot,” Werth said.
With FHSU sitting 6-2 and 2-0 in the MIAA, Werth and the Tigers face a daunting task to start a two-game road swing with Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. tip at Washburn University. While the Ichabods have yet to play an official MIAA game, WU has three losses to top caliber Division II competition — Northern State University, Rockhurst and defending national champion Northwest Missouri State University. They also feature one of the best big men in the conference in senior Brady Skeens. The senior averages a double-double and has 18 blocked shots to lead the conference.
“He’s a great player,” Werth said. “It’s going to come down to defense. If I can stop him, I think we’ll have a decent turnout. We also have to show up on the offensive end as well.”
Werth did just that in the last outing as No. 2 in the Tigers’ 1-2 punch after senior Hadley Gillum, who has been scorching opponents so far this season.
“I think we all feel pretty confident,” said Werth. “Tough week coming up on the road. One game at a time and I think we’re going to be alright this year.”
That confidence comes at the hands of Gillum. The Plainville graduate posted 30 and 29 points, respectively, in the 2-0 MIAA start, virtually scoring at will all season.
“He’s one of the best offensive players we’ve had,” Tiger 17th-year head coach Mark Johnson said. “He scores in so many different ways. He’s just a hard matchup. He’s a guy that has really carried us.”
While Gillum has provided the offense, though, the defense has improved. That’s a big reason why, Johnson said, FHSU has been able to start 2-0 against two quality MIAA opponents. Washburn, though, will provide the Tigers’ toughest test to date, and maybe all season.
“Defensively, they’re getting after it,” Johnson said. “They’re really using their athleticism. Hardest game we’ve played to date for sure.”
At 88.3 points per game, FHSU is the highest scoring team in the MIAA. Take away the 119 points against Kansas Christian College and that average only drops to 83 points per night, which would put FHSU nearly even with the Ichabods.