If opposing teams of the Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team haven’t figured this out, they haven’t been remotely paying attention.
Any success the Tigers have on offense this season is going to go through Hadley Gillum. That’s a pretty clear cut fact.
“He’s a big key — a really good player,” Washburn University head coach Brett Ballard said. “It’s hard to stop a guy like him. Just have to wear him down and make him work to get his points.”
Saying he has to be stopped and actually carrying that mission out are two completely different things.
The senior, though, is coming off his worst two-game stretch of his final year in a Tiger uniform. The Tigers went 1-1 after what Gillum called a “lackadaisical” effort in Saturday’s home loss to Washburn. In the two-game home stretch, Gillum combined for just 11 points after coming into the week averaging nearly 18 points per contest.
It was the first time this season the Plainville grad scored in single digits in back-to-back outings.
“Hadley didn’t have a great week for us,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. “People are keying on him, making it hard for him. When he only gets four or seven, that makes it hard for us.”
Scoring definitely hasn’t been easy to come by for FHSU. The Tigers were without the services of junior center Brady Werth for two weeks, and Johnson is hoping this week’s two-game swing in Oklahoma will provide a chance to get back on track.
While Werth — still not at 100 percent — had two strong outings in his first two games back, Gillum knows his scoring will come back to help out.
“Just mentally staying right, having the confidence and knowing those shots are going to fall,” the Tigers’ lone senior said. “Being able to believe in yourself and have your teammates believe in you. It’s going to come back.”
FHSU enters the week with an outside shot at cracking the top four of the MIAA, but realistically is just in the hunt for wrapping up a first-round home game in the MIAA Tournament. The top four finishers receive a first-round bye, while the next four earn a home game. Entering Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. game against Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla., FHSU sits in sixth place at 13-9 overall and 6-7 in MIAA play. The Tigers are tied with two other teams for that sixth spot. Northeastern State is 7-15, 3-10, but has won four of its last seven contests.
“They’re kind of finding their comfort zone and how they want to play. This week’s important to us,” Johnson said. “Right now, we’re trying to get a home game (for the tournament).”
The one thing Johnson knows for sure is FHSU has to have a better effort than it did against Washburn in the last outing. WU shot lights out and came away with a 16-point victory. Part of that, though, was on FHSU.
“They played with a lot more energy than us,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s so much we were worn down, but we just didn’t have the effort we should have.”
The Riverhawks’ 6-foot-3 guard Jamir Andrews leads the club with 15.3 points per game and put up 22 in a loss Saturday at Central Missouri.