The Fort Hays State men held Cam Martin in check better than any other team the All-American has faced in his Missouri Southern career, but the Lions' talented supporting cast picked up the scoring slack.
Despite holding Martin to single digits for the first time in his 44 games as a Lion, the Tigers were hurt by Southern's other standouts and couldn't complete a late rally, dropping to 0-3 in MIAA play with an 85-67 loss on Saturday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Martin, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, finished with just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting after coming into the game averaging 22.5 points. However, Kinzer Lambert poured in 24 points for the Lions while Braelon Walker and Elyjah Clark each added 14.
Lambert and Walker combined for 11 of the 13 3-pointers for the Lions, who shot 52.2% from the field and 56.5 percent from behind the arc.
"That's why they're great players, you can't take everything away. You've got to give something up," said FHSU coach Mark Johnson, who credited Jared Vitztum and Gilbert Peters for battling against Martin. "Kinzer and Walker, they shot the heck out of it. If they miss a few of those threes, now it's a different situation."
Lambert was on fire in the first half, scoring 16 points to help stake Southern to a 41-24 lead at halftime.
The Lions, who picked up their first win in Hays since 2012, maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half until Fort Hays finally generated a run, using a 10-0 spurt, fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers from Calvin Harrington, to trim the deficit to seven with 5:21 left.
The Tigers had a chance to cut further into the lead, but Southern corralled a loose ball and Martin was flagrantly fouled by FHSU's Devin Davis as he attempted a fastbreak dunk on the other end with 4:41 left. Davis was then given a technical after an altercation under the basket that also resulted in double technicals for Missouri Southern's Reggie Tharpe and Harrington.
The Lions (10-2, 3-0 MIAA) got four free throws due to the flagrant and Davis' technical, making all four to push the lead back up to 11.
"Couldn't make a dent, couldn't make a dent and then we finally had a run," Johnson said. "Just that big moment didn't come our way; it went their way. I don't know if we were going to win the game, but that play pretty much took any chance that we had of winning away."
Vitztum led the Tigers with 17 points while Harrington added 11. The Tigers shot just 39.3% from the field, going 22-of-56.
Johnson said the Tigers took some solace in fighting back late.
"I was proud of our guys (for the comeback)," Johnson said. "It would have been easy to lose by 25 tonight, just getting ran over in the second half. We ran better offense, made some shots, but still couldn't stop them very much at all."
"I just fell like they are playing so much more physical and harder than they have before," Johnson said of the Lions. "If they can continue to play like this, they will definitely contend with Northwest Missouri for our league championship."
The Tigers, who dropped to 6-5 overall, were set play host to Pittsburg State on Monday night. Check hdnews.net and Wednesday's print edition for a recap.