JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Lincoln put together a late second-half rally and Fort Hays State had to force overtime on Saturday (Feb. 15), but Lincoln ultimately prevailed 74-71 on its home floor in the extra period. The Tigers saw their five-game win streak snapped and Lincoln moved ahead of FHSU by two games in the MIAA standings. FHSU, now 12-12 overall and 5-10 in the MIAA, remains in a tie for ninth place with four games to go. Lincoln moved to 10-14 overall and 7-8 in the MIAA.
Fort Hays State took control of the game midway through the first half with a 15-4 run, building a lead of 11 points at 25-14. FHSU led by 11 three more times in the first half before taking a 33-26 lead into halftime. Gilbert Peters was a big spark off the bench in the first frame, leading the Tigers with 10 points at the half.
Fort Hays State continued to hold Lincoln at arm's length early in the second half, growing their lead to double figures five times through the first five minutes of action. However, the Tigers suddenly went cold from the field and shot just 1-of-8 over the next six and a half minutes. That allowed Lincoln to slowly creep back into the game with a 12-3 run, cutting the lead down to just two with eight minutes remaining.
After Jared Vitztum hit a jumper to push the FHSU lead back to four, Lincoln went on a 7-0 burst in about a minute and a half to take its first lead, 55-52, since an 8-6 early in the first half. Perry Carroll answered with a 3-point field goal to knot the score at 55 with 5:45 to go. From that point, it was a back-and-forth battle with neither team leading by more than four points.
Fort Hays State used a 7-0 run to go from a four-point deficit to a three-point lead with two minutes to go in the game, but could not put away Lincoln late. The Tigers had a good look at a layup with just under two minutes remaining that missed and Lincoln countered with a fast-break dunk. The Tigers turned the ball over on their next possession and then Lincoln hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 62-62 with just over a minute remaining. The Tigers squandered their next possession with a bad pass out of bounds. That allowed Lincoln to hit the go-ahead jumper with 28 seconds remaining. Luckily, with 16 seconds remaining, Aaron Nicholson hit a pair of free throws to tie the game once again at 64-64. Lincoln missed a shot with just a few seconds remaining and the game headed to overtime.
Lincoln initially went up by four points in overtime, only to see FHSU counter with buckets from Nyjee Wright and Jared Vitztum to tie the game at 68-68. FHSU forced a miss out of Lincoln with about two minutes to go, but immediately turned the ball over for an easy Lincoln layup. That was a key turning point in overtime as FHSU missed a shot on its next possession and then Lincoln hit a pair of free throws to lead by four again with 1:26 to play. Calvin Harrington nailed a 3-point field goal with a minute remaining, keeping FHSU alive trailing by just one point. The Tigers got a stop on the defensive end, but missed another layup chance in close with 30 seconds remaining on a chance to take the lead. Lincoln hit a pair of free throws and then FHSU missed two shots just before the final horn in an attempt to get the game tied. Lincoln survived the late back-and-forth battle by three points.
A career-high 24 points from Vitztum was not enough to put the Tigers over the top. He added 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Vitztum scored 18 of his 24 in the second half. Peters was the only other Tiger in double figures with the 10 points he notched in the first half, while Wright and Harrington each had nine.
Jonell Burton led Lincoln with 21 points, followed by Marcel Burton with 16. L'Kielynn Taylor had 13 and Cameron Potts added 12. Lincoln shot 50 percent overall from the field, as well as 50 percent beyond the 3-point line. The Blue Tigers entered the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the MIAA.
FHSU finished at 41 percent from the field for the game, but struggled beyond the 3-point line to just 23.8 percent (5-of-21). A rough 2-of-9 effort overall from the field in overtime did not help the FHSU cause either.
Two big home contests await the Tigers in Hays next week as they play host to Rogers State (Thursday) and then Northeastern State (Saturday).