EDMOND, Okla. — Fort Hays State forced overtime on Thursday evening (Feb. 27), but ultimately fell 80-73 at Central Oklahoma in a key game with MIAA Tournament implications. Both teams entered the game in a tie for ninth in the MIAA standings. FHSU moved to 13-14 overall, 6-12 in the MIAA, while UCO moved to 10-17 overall, 7-11 in the MIAA.
A back-and-forth battle all night, the game saw 11 lead changes and 12 ties. Unfortunately the Tigers struggled from the field early in overtime and the Bronchos pulled ahead enough to hold the Tigers off in the final minute.
Midway through the first half, Fort Hays State built a 10-point lead with a 14-4 run over a span of three and a half minutes. But the Bronchos chipped away at the Tiger lead and eventually tied the game by halftime at 33-33.
The lead changed hands several times inside the final 10 minutes of regulation. UCO went up by four points with just under two minutes remaining, but consecutive layups by Nyjee Wright pulled the Tigers back into a tie at 66-66. UCO's Justin Nimmer then buried a 3-point field goal from the left wing with 30 seconds remaining, but Jared Vitztum answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play on the other end with 17 seconds remaining. UCO missed the last-second shot attempt at the end of regulation.
A bad start to overtime was the undoing of the Tigers in their quest for a key road win. Wright drew a foul on the left wing on the first possession of overtime, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the charity stripe. From there, UCO went on a 7-0 run in the first three minutes of the extra period, while FHSU missed its first four shots from the field in the extra frame. A layup by Devin Davis with just under two minutes remaining cut the lead to five, but Nimmer canned another big shot for the Bronchos on the other end pushing the lead back to seven with just over a minute to play. UCO added a pair of free throws before an Aaron Nicholson layup with 30 seconds remaining provided the final points of the game.
Jake Hutchings led the Tigers with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and a 2-of-3 effort at the free-throw line. Wright (13), Alvin Thompson (11) and Jared Vitztum (10) also reached double figures for FHSU.
Nimmer, who hit several big shots late for UCO, finished with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Dashon Bell (12) and Carson Calavan (10) also scored in double figures.
Fort Hays State now faces a must-win situation at Newman on Saturday (Feb. 29) for any hope of making the MIAA Tournament. The Tigers fell into a 10th place tie with Pittsburg State due to the loss at UCO. The Tigers also need help to avoid tiebreaking scenarios that may not go their way. A Pittsburg State loss and a Fort Hays State win would get the Tigers into the tournament. Pittsburg State plays host to Central Missouri on Saturday.