The Fort Hays State men's basketball team stormed out of the gates in Saturday's home opener against Sterling and continued to roll, dominating the Warriors in a 106-57 romp on Saturday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
First-year Tigers Alvin Thompson and Jake Hutchings led the way. Thompson scored a game-high 23 points and Hutchings put up 20 points and 13 rebounds, helping the Tigers bounce back from Tuesday's 74-71 loss to Southwest Baptist in Kansas City.
"We were really disappointed in how we played on Tuesday night," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "Tonight was the first time we've been at home and I know our guys were excited to play and wanted to put on a good performance, and obviously they did that. Scoring 100 points, that's always fun to do."
Fort Hays State (4-2) opened on a 20-3 run and built a 48-22 advantage by halftime.
"I liked the way we came out, that's what we've been working on," Johnson said. "Our last three games we've gotten off to really bad starts, just haven't had the energy you need to be successful. Like I told our guys, energy and effort and intensity and toughness on defense leads to better offense. You just shoot the ball better when you're locked in like that."
Fort Hays shot at a 54.8% clip in the first half and finished at 48.6% while holding Sterling to 34.2% for the game. The Tigers went 13 of 26 from 3-point range, led by a 5-of-7 effort from behind the arc by Thompson, a Cloud County transfer.
"We just wanted to come out hard and play good D, because we just lost Tuesday, so we just wanted to play hard and bounce back," Hutchings said.
Hutchings nearly earned his double-double by halftime, recording 15 points and eight rebounds in the first half. He finished 7 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
"I thought he was really aggressive for us," Johnson said. "I thought he was physical finishing at the rim. We need him to be a good player for us. He had a really good game."
Hutchings, a 6-foot-7 Las Vegas product, transferred to Fort Hays for his senior season after playing last year at Chaminade in Hawaii.
"It's been a really good fit for me," Hutchings said. "I love it out here, everybody's great. I love the team, I love the school, coaches are awesome. I'm just really happy to be here and for this opportunity."
Jared Vitztum added 15 points and eight rebounds while Gilbert Peters put up 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Devin Davis dished out six assists.
Fort Hays will open MIAA play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with a matchup at Nebraska-Kearney at UNK's Health and Sports Center.
"We've got to consistently guard," Johnson said of the Tigers' focus as they begin the MIAA slate. "We've been kind of hit or miss defensively. We've either been really good, or not very good at all. Our two losses, we have not been very good. We need to more consistent with our effort, more consistent with our responsibilities on defense. Then you just got to make shots. At the end of the day this game is (about) who scores more points. Hopefully we continue to feed off this one and some guys get some confidence."
The Lopers started 1-3 but have won back-to-back games (74-66 over Colorado Mines and 63-62 against South Dakota Mines) to even their record at 3-3. UNK has four players averaging in double digits in points — Morgan Soucie (14.2), A.J. Jackson (11.0), Jake Walker (10.7) and Kyle Juhl (10.7).
"They have a lot of size in a lot of areas of their backcourt and they're pretty tall also, so I just think their overall size, 1 through 5, is going to be a factor in the game," Johnson said.