For a team looking for a bigger scoring punch from its bench, Friday night's first semester finale against Avila was an encouraging sign for the Fort Hays State men.
Junior guard Perry Carroll scored 17 points on a perfect shooting night to lead a 46-point effort from the Tigers' bench as FHSU closed out the 2019 portion of its schedule with a 96-55 rout of the Eagles at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“Coach (Mark Johnson) is always on me, talking about being aggressive and to do what I can do,” Carroll said. “(Friday's game) makes me more confident going into the second half of the season. I’m just doing what’s best for the team.”
On a night where the Tigers shot a sizzling 61.7% (37 of 60) from the field, Jake Hutchings scored 17 to share game-high honors with Carroll while senior Aaron Nicholson matched his season high with 16 points. Alvin Thompson scored 11 off the bench and Devin Davis added 10.
The Tigers wrapped up the first semester of play with a 6-4 mark, also taking a blowout win over Bethel earlier in the week.
"This week hopefully went a long way for our bench," Johnson said. "Perry and Alvin, we need them to give us scoring. You look at our bench, in the games we've played against Division II opponents, basically all on the road, we're just not getting enough scoring out of our bench. Hopefully these two games we'll kind of get them going."
Carroll, an Ottawa native and Allen County transfer, went 7 of 7 from the field, 2 of 2 from 3-point range, 1 of 1 from the foul line and didn't commit a turnover in 21 minutes. Johnson is hoping Carroll can carry the confidence and aggressiveness into the new year.
"When you're hesitating and thinking, 'Should I do this or not do this,' that's when bad things happen," Johnson said. "When you're passive, turnovers occur. That's really been the only thing — he just needs to not turn the ball over, take care of the ball a little better, and tonight he did that."
Hutchings had a strong week for the Tigers, averaging 19.5 points over the two games.
"These were good games for Jake," Johnson said. "Jake is a highly-skilled individual. Against these guys, he can really put the ball in the basket. What happens at times in our league, guys get a little more athletic and more physical, and it makes it a little bit hard for him to go get it himself. That's why we have to do a better job of creating for him and Jared (Vitztum) both."
FHSU broke away from the Eagles with a 24-3 run over the final 9:10 of the first half. Calvin Harrington helped the Tigers cap a dominant half by blocking a 3-pointer, saving a ball in-bounds and then tossing it ahead to Nicholson, whose layup gave FHSU a 49-25 lead heading into the break.
"That kind of put it away," Johnson said. "... That was a big play by Calvin."
The lead was quickly pushed to 30 after the Tigers scored the first six points of the second half.
Avila shot just 27% from the field (16 of 59).
"After the first three or four minutes, I thought are guys did a really good job," Johnson said of the defensive effort. "Especially in the last 10 minutes of the first half, I thought we were really active."
Vitztum pulled down 11 rebounds while Wright dished out seven assists for FHSU.
Avila (7-8) put three in double figures — Tremaine Banks (14), Shandon Boone (13) and Brandon Phillips (11).
The Tigers will return from the break Jan. 4 to play host to Missouri Southern, currently ranked No. 11.
“At first, we were just kind of learning about everybody and their skills,” Carroll said. “I think we’re jelling together pretty well and it’s going to be a great second half of the season.”