Valiant effort comes up short for Tiger men

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News

The Fort Hays State men tried their best to overcome their shooting woes, but No. 3 Northwest Missouri State answered a late Tiger rally to hand FHSU a 64-51 loss on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum. 

FHSU's Kaleb Hammeke passes off the ball during the Tigers' 64-51 loss to Northwest Missouri State on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The Tigers went just 19 of 54 from the field for 35% while going 5 of 22 from 3-point range. 

"I thought we had good looks," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. " ... You got to be able to make a few shots. We were 5 of 22 from 3; if we could have gone 8 for 22, we win the game."

FHSU trailed by 12 early in the second half but fought back to get it tied at 49 with 5:51 left behind a 13-1 run. 

However, Northwest outscored Fort Hays 15-2 over the last 5:18 of the game, dropping the Tigers to 3-7. 

"We got plenty of stops, even down the stretch; we couldn't get enough defensive rebounds and then we just had some turnovers that killed us and led to easy baskets for them late in the game," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. 

FHSU's shooting struggles began early, with the Tigers trailing 31-21 at the break after shooting 7 of 22 from the field in the first half. 

"I thought the first five or six minutes, we couldn't get better looks," Johnson said. "I was proud of our guys. They didn't let that get their head down and quit. They kept fighting on the defensive end and gave ourselves an opportunity and a chance."

"It felt like the rims were against us a little bit," FHSU guard Kaleb Hammeke said. "Sometimes at home we expect it to be the other way, but I guess it got us tonight."

Trevor Hudgins put the Bearcats (7-1) on his back, scoring 29 points while going 10 of 17 from the field, 6 of 6 from the line and 3 of 5 from 3-point range. He also grabbed eight rebounds and had four assists. 

"When you look at the stat sheet and see he scored 29 points ... he does it so efficiently," Johnson said. "That's what good players do. 

"Just a really good player and a tough matchup. He's a physical kid, too, which really helps."

Quinten Rock led the Tigers with 12 points and Hammeke finished with 11. The Bearcats turned their defensive attention to FHSU All-MIAA forward Jared Vitztum, who was held to five points on 2-of-8 shooting. 

"I thought their defense, what they did a really good job of, was trying to limit Jared as much as they could," Johnson said. "It was hard for him to be able to get enough shots off and be effective. They have so much size."

Johnson said he was disappointed that a valiant effort didn't translate into a win for the Tigers. 

"They tried as hard as they could and were physical," Johnson said of the Tigers. "I thought we might have done as well guarding their ball screen and switching action as we have done the last five years. It's just disappointing we couldn't make a few more shots and get a victory I felt like they deserved."

The Tigers were scheduled to play Saturday at home against Missouri Western but that game has been postponed because of COVID-19 protocols involving the Griffons.

Fort Hays is next scheduled to play at Missouri Southern on Thursday.