RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Fort Hays State picked up a win in its season opener on Friday night by a score of 88-78 over Arkansas Tech. The Tigers controlled the game for nearly 33 minutes until having to hold off a late push by the Wonder Boys.
The Tigers used strong defense in the first half to build a strong halftime lead of 13 points, 44-31. FHSU built a big lead early with an 18-0 run that spanned over seven minutes from the 15:33 to 8:07 marks, going up 27-8 early. FHSU held Arkansas Tech in single digits for the first 12 minutes until a bucket at the 7:55 mark snapped the big run. Arkansas Tech cut the lead back to 10 before FHSU eventually took the 13-point lead into halftime. FHSU shot 47 percent in the opening half, while holding ATU to 29 percent.
The Tigers stormed out of the gates in the second half with a 10-0 run to push their lead to 23, 54-31, when Arkansas Tech missed its first two shot attempts and turned the ball over twice. The lead hovered around 20 points for a while until the Tigers took their biggest lead of 25 points at the 12:52 mark, 61-36. The lead remained at 20 or more until an ATU bucket at 8:00 cut the lead to 19.
FHSU pushed the lead to at least 20 twice more until Arkansas Tech sped up the pace of play and started to make a run late. A 14-5 run by Arkansas Tech whittled the FHSU lead down to 11 by the 4:00 mark. FHSU pushed its lead back to 14, but ATU kept chipping away and cut the lead under 10 points with 2:02 to play. The Tigers saw their lead eventually trimmed to six with 21 seconds to play, but a pair of Aaron Nicholson free throws pushed the lead back to eight and put the game out of reach. Nicholson was big for the Tigers at the charity stripe down the stretch, where he went 6-of-6 over the final three minutes of the game.
Nyjee Wright led the Tigers with a career-high 22 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field. He was also solid at the free-throw line with a 4-of-4 effort. He hit a pair of big shots late while the Wonder Boys were making their burst at the Tigers, hitting a floater in the lane after the lead dropped to nine and then a 3-point field goal with a minute remaining after the lead fell to eight.
Nicholson was the second-leading scorer for the Tigers with 16 points, while Devin Davis had 12. Gilbert Peters had a strong collegiate debut with 14 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double, going 6-of-11 from the field. Davis and Peters led the way for FHSU in the first half, each with 10 points.
Dillon Gooding led the Arkansas Tech scoring effort with 22 points, hitting nine field goals, four of which were of the 3-point variety. Ramses Sandifer and R.J. Glasper each had 15 points.
FHSU finished the game at 43.7 percent from the field, while holding ATU on its home floor to 39.7 percent. FHSU won the battle on the glass 47-37, and the turnover column 18-12. The Tigers had 18 offensive rebounds, which allowed them to generate 19 second-chance points.