By now, opponents of the Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team have figured out in order to beat the Tigers, they are going to have to slow down Tiger senior Hadley Gillum, along with junior Brady Werth.
What’s going to be difficult is when the rest of the team gets going.
Case in point was Saturday’s 83-49 victory by the Tigers over visiting NAIA foe Kansas Wesleyan University at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Coyotes keyed in on Gillum and Werth early, and it was junior point guard Kyler Kinnamon who stepped to the plate and delivered.
The McPherson High School product scored early and often, matching his career high with 18 points and fueling a 21-9 first-half run as the Tigers never looked back, and moved to 8-3.
Kinnamon, who significantly has improved his outside shooting, finished 7 off 11 from the floor, hitting two 3s, and collected three assists in a career night.
“Getting in the gym before practice, getting some confidence in that, working on your stroke,” Kinnamon said of his improved numbers so far in 2017. “I was lucky enough (tonight) to have some guys set me up for some open shots.”
After the junior cooled down, some other Tigers were able to step up, including Gillum and Werth, who finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Werth finished two rebounds shy of a double-double.
“Kyler got us off to a good start,” Tiger coach Mark Johnson said. “Had a really nice first half.
“They were doing a good job of trying to take away our bigs and double-teaming our post.”
The effort, though, wasn’t enough as FHSU put in a “workmanlike” game, with its biggest lead coming at the end of the contest.
“We kind of addressed some things we needed to do internally before we prepared for (KWU),” Kinnamon said. “Came out, played hard and were able to get the win.”
FHSU shot 53 percent from the floor for the game with nine players entering the books. Payton Stephens collected 14 points hitting 6 of 8 from the floor, while Trey O’Neil put in six. KeShawn Wilson and Marcus Cooper also combined for 20 points.
“Workmanlike was a good way to describe it,” Johnson said. “It’s time to move on to a pretty good, a talented Newman team.”
FHSU will play one more game before the holiday break, a 7 p.m. Monday date with Newman University at GMC. It’s the final Division II non-conference opponent for the Tigers, who resume MIAA play Jan. 4 at Central Missouri. Monday’s contest, though, could have big implications, should the Tigers be in a position at the end of the season to make the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ll have to play well,” Johnson said of Monday’s game. “Big game for us, depending on what happens at the end of the year.
“This game Monday could be a deciding factor whether you’re in or not.”
Kinnamon echoed the importance of Monday’s contest, and noted the Tigers are starting to gel together more each day. The shooting effort Saturday showcased that.
“It’s a quick turnaround, but I think we’re ready to do it, be able to head into break with a little win streak,” Kinnamon said.