Defensive breakdowns kept the Fort Hays State men from capturing their first MIAA win of the season.
The Tigers were within striking distance of Pittsburg State late, but failed to come up with defensive stops down the stretch, dropping to 6-6 overall and 0-4 in MIAA play with a 79-68 loss to the Gorillas on Monday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"The biggest thing was we couldn't stop them," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "This is a problem for us. Part of it is our size and athleticism. The effort was there, but the toughness and execution is where we got to get better."
The Gorillas shot 58% from the field for the game, hitting 75% of their shots over the final 10 minutes.
"We couldn't really get going," FHSU sophomore guard Nyjee Wright said. "Give credit to them, they played good both halves. But we had a tough little slippage in the second half, which we shouldn't have had."
Pittsburg State placed five in double figures — Jah-Kobe Womack (18), A.J. Walker (15), Ray Eliott (12), Dejon Waters Jr. (12), Christian Edmondson (12) and Antonio Givens Jr. (10).
"Defensively, we're just all over the place," Johnson said. "... We got beat everywhere. Guys were getting split right and left off the bounce, we're not getting to help, but they're also getting wide-open from three. I don't think if was an effort deal, but you've got to be able to execute. It's team defense. It's five on five. You got to do your responsibilities."
Johnson felt the Tigers were pressing in the first half. They trailed 33-29 at the break.
"I thought in the first half our guys knew how important this game was and maybe put a little too much pressure on themselves," Johnson said. "That matchup zone kind of gave us fits in the first half."
Fort Hays found an offensive rhythm in the second half, grabbing the lead on two occasions midway through the half.
"I thought the second half offensively, we were all right," Johnson said. "We couldn't make a three, we were 3 of 15 (from three), but we got good looks and ran much better offense and kind of figured out that matchup zone."
The score was locked at 52 with 10:25 left before the Gorillas took control with a 10-0 run.
"I just think we lost (sight) of what we needed to do," Wright said. "Not getting to our right positions and credit them, they exposed it."
Fort Hays was within four points with three minutes remaining, but Pitt State scored the next five points and never let FHSU closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Gorillas, coached by former University of Missouri and Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson, moved to 5-8 overall and 1-3 in the MIAA.
The Tigers went 26 of 56 from the field (44 percent). Pitt State was 11 of 21 from 3-point range while Fort Hays hit just 5 of 22 attempts from deep. The Tigers also struggled from the foul line, going 11 of 20.
Jared Vitztum led FHSU with 17 points while Wright added 13 and Devin Davis 11.
The Tigers will now head back out on the road, facing Northeastern State on Thursday and Rogers State on Saturday.