FHSU puts win streak to test vs. No. 22 Griffons
Fort Hays State will take a three-game win streak (four counting an exhibition win) into St. Joseph, Missouri on Saturday (Jan. 2) for their first meeting with Missouri Western this season. The Griffons are out to a 5-1 start to the season and hold the #22 ranking in the latest NABC Division II poll. FHSU enters at 3-3. Tipoff is at 2 pm at MWSU Fieldhouse.
Only a select few family members of FHSU players will be granted access to a strictly limited amount of tickets provided by MWSU. Access to these tickets is being handled internally by FHSU Administration with FHSU Men's Basketball team personnel. Walk-up tickets will not be sold to the general public. Live coverage of the game will be available on The MIAA Network, KJLS Radio, and Live Stats at the links provided above.
This game has been moved up from its original scheduled date of February 25 since Fort Hays State's game scheduled against Central Oklahoma for this Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Missouri Western is available to play this weekend, so it allows more open dates for FHSU to potentially schedule a makeup date for a postponed game.
After three close losses to start the season, the Tigers righted the ship by winning three straight to get back to level with their regular season record. A big 81-68 win at Kansas State in exhibition play played a big part in getting the Tigers on track, which they followed with an overtime win at Newman and then home wins over Northeastern State and Rogers State. Now the Tigers will put their run to the test against a ranked Missouri Western squad.
The Griffons started the season 4-0 before a close loss at Pittsburg State and then a close win at Missouri Southern. MWSU defeated its first four MIAA opponents of the season by an average of 17.3 points before a three-point loss at Pittsburg State and a two-point win at Missouri Southern. This will be the first time in Fort Hays State's NCAA Division II history that it faces a ranked Missouri Western squad.
Fort Hays State is looking for its first win over a ranked opponent since its final meeting with an NABC ranked team in 2018-19, which was an 89-84 win over a #25 ranked Missouri Southern squad in Hays on February 28, 2019. The last road win for the Tigers over an NABC ranked team occurred on December 17, 2015 when FHSU edged a #15 ranked Central Missouri squad 69-68 in Warrensburg.
Jared Vitztum continues to lead the Tigers with a double-double average of 20.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He is tied for the national lead in double-doubles with four, matching the output of Sai Witt from Lincoln University (Mo.) and Dylan Peters of Truman (Mo.). This matchup between the Tigers and Griffons features the top rebounders in the MIAA so far, Vitztum and Will Eames of MWSU, both averaging right on 10 per game. Vitztum ranks second nationally in free throws made (41) and free throws attempted (51).
Quinten Rock has elevated his scoring output as he gathers more and more experience in his true freshman season. He is averaging 18.3 points over the last four contests, including a new career-high 24 in the win over Rogers State right before the holiday break. He and redshirt-freshman Kaleb Hammeke, who ranks second in the MIAA in assists per game (5.0), have done well handling the Tiger offense so far. Rock is adding 4.2 assists per game to rank fifth in the MIAA, while his 15.5 points per game average ranks ninth.
Alvin Thompson produced a season-high 17 points in the last outing for the Tigers and Bjarni Jonsson reached a new career-high with 11 points, his first double-figure game as a Tiger. He also had a new career high in rebounds the game prior to that. Gilbert Peters is providing the most scoring punch off the bench so far for the Tigers at 7.2 points per game.
Missouri Western has five players currently averaging double figures in scoring, led by Tyrell Carroll at 19.8 points per game. The previously mentioned Eames is averaging a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.