Emporia State ended a seven-game losing string on its home floor to Fort Hays State on Saturday (Dec. 7). The Hornets edged the Tigers 69-66, picking up their first win in White Auditorium over the Tigers since 2010-11. Emporia State moved to 7-3 overall, 2-0 in the MIAA, while FHSU moved to 4-4 overall, and 0-2 in the MIAA.
Emporia State started out hot and built a 15-4 lead to start the game, but the Tigers countered with a 23-11 run over six and a half minutes of action to take a 27-26 lead with six and a half minutes to go in the opening half. Emporia briefly took the lead back by two before FHSU ended the half on an 8-2 burst. The Tigers took a 35-31 lead into halftime.
The Tigers led by seven twice early in the second half, but Emporia State rallied with a 15-2 run to take a 48-42 lead. The only bucket in that run from FHSU came from Nyjee Wright as the Tigers went 1-of-7 from the field and turned the ball over four times within a seven and a half minute span. A Devin Davis jumper just north of 10 minutes remaining in the game snapped the Hornet run.
Emporia State pushed its lead to nine with a little more than four minutes to go in the game, but the Tigers chipped away at the lead in the final two minutes. The Tigers trimmed the lead down to three on a Wright jumper with 1:17 remaining. ESU countered with a dunk before Wright buried a three-point field goal to cut the lead to two with 39 seconds remaining.
The Tigers played for a defensive stop and held their ground, but they missed their excellent opportunity to tie the game with under 10 seconds remaining. A short-range shot danced around the rim and out as ESU secured the rebound. The Hornets made one-of-two free throws and a half-court shot by the Tigers fell off the mark as time expired.
Wright led all scorers in the game with 19 points, going 6-of-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Davis added 15 and Aaron Nicholson had 11. Jared Vitztum nearly recorded a double-double by pulling down a team-high 12 rebounds and adding nine points.
Jumah'Ri Turner led the Hornets with 18 points, followed by Brenden Van Dyke with 11 and Keyon Thomas with 10.
The Tigers have played seven of their first eight games of the season away from home, but a long five-game home stretch awaits the Tigers back in Hays. FHSU plays three NAIA opponents at home to close out the month of December starting on the 15th with Kansas Wesleyan before hosting a pair of MIAA contests to kickoff January.