Jan 14, 2021 5:00 PM

🏀📻 Tiger men ready for battle with #3/#1 Bearcats

Posted Jan 14, 2021 5:00 PM
Jared Vitztum leads the Tigers at 19.0 points per game and leads the  MIAA wth 10.4 rebounds per contest (Courtesy FHSU Athletics, Allie Schweizer)
Jared Vitztum leads the Tigers at 19.0 points per game and leads the  MIAA wth 10.4 rebounds per contest (Courtesy FHSU Athletics, Allie Schweizer)

#3/1 Northwest Missouri State (6-1, 6-1 MIAA) at
Fort Hays State (3-6, 3-6 MIAA)

Thursday, January 14 - 7:30 pm
Hays, Kan. - Gross Memorial Coliseum
Radio: KJLS (103.3-FM)

Game Sponsor - American Family Insurance, Brian Ruder Agency

Fort Hays State will play a pair of nationally ranked teams at Gross Memorial Coliseum this week, starting with No. 3/1 ranked Northwest Missouri State on Thursday evening (Jan. 14). The Tigers are looking to snap a three-game losing skid, while the Bearcats enter at 6-1 on the season. Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm, which will follow the women's game at 5:30.

Fort Hays State is coming off three straight losses on the road in Missouri, looking to build onto a two-game win streak at home. FHSU last played at home back on December 18 and 20 when it defeated Northeastern State and Rogers State. All but one of Fort Hays State's results this year finished with a margin of 10 or greater, that being the 12-point loss at Lincoln this past Saturday. Fort Hays State's four home games so far this year have been decided by an average of four points.

After holding the No. 1 ranking in both the NABC and D2SIDA Polls from the start of the season, Northwest Missouri State took its first loss of 2020-21 last week at home to a No. 5 ranked Washburn squad. That snapped a 28-game win streak for the Bearcats dating back to December 16, 2019. NWMSU won its last 23 games of the 2019-20 season. The Bearcats are still the reigning national champion in NCAA Division II men's basketball from 2019 since the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to coronavirus. The Bearcats were poised for another deep run last season as they held the No. 1 national ranking entering the national tournament fresh off their seventh-straight MIAA Regular Season Championship and fifth-straight MIAA Tournament Championship.

Following its win at NWMSU, Washburn went on to lose at No. 22 ranked Missouri Western two nights later. All three schools top the MIAA men's standings with one loss. Washburn and Missouri Western are a couple games clear of NWMSU in the win column at 8-1.

Following its loss last week, Northwest Missouri fell to No. 3 in the latest NABC poll released on Tuesday (Jan. 12), while Washburn moved to No. 8 this week and Missouri Western moved up to No. 16. Colorado School of Mines takes over the No. 1 ranking in the NABC Poll this week, now 8-0 on the season, while Northern State (S.D.) at 4-0 moved up to No. 2. The NABC released its fifth Top 25 Poll of the season this week, so NWMSU held the No. 1 spot in the preseason poll and the first four regular season polls.

The first regular season release of the supplemental D2SIDA Media Poll occurred on Tuesday this week as well, but the top 3 from the preseason poll remain unchanged even though all three took their first loss of the season last week. Northwest Missouri remains No. 1, Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) remains No. 2, and West Texas A&M remains No. 3.

Fort Hays State last knocked off an NABC Top 25 team during the 2018-19 season when it defeated a No. 25 ranked Missouri Southern squad 89-84 in Hays on February 28, 2019. Since then, FHSU has dropped five straight to NABC Top 25 teams. FHSU is 17-16 all-time against NABC Top 25 teams during its NCAA Division II history, and 7-12 against Top 5 teams. This will be the sixth straight meeting between FHSU and NWMSU with the Bearcats holding an NABC Top 25 ranking. NWMSU has been either No. 1 or No. 2 during the last four meetings. This is the second time the Tigers are meeting NWMSU while it holds a No. 1 ranking in the D2SIDA Poll. The D2SIDA Poll is still fairly young in its history, starting back in 2014-15.

Jared Vitztum of FHSU leads the MIAA in rebounding at 10.4 per game and leads the nation in total rebounds (94). He ranks fourth in the MIAA in scoring at 19.0 points per game. Vitztum is tied for the national lead in double-doubles, sharing the top of the list with Dylan Peeters of Truman (Mo.) both with six in nine games played this season. Quinten Rock (13.6) and Alvin Thompson (10.9) are also averaging double figures in scoring for FHSU. Kaleb Hammeke ranks third in the MIAA in assists per game (4.9).

Northwest Missouri State has two of the top three scorers in the MIAA, Trevor Hudgins at 20 points per game and Ryan Hawkins at 19.3 per game. Hudgins, the 2020 MIAA Player of the Year and D2CCA Central Region Player of the Year, is second in the MIAA in assists at 5.4 per game. Hudgins had a triple-double in the only meeting with FHSU last season, producing 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Fort Hays State's last win over Northwest Missouri State occurred during the 2012-13 season, when FHSU swept the regular season series winning in both Hays and Maryville (Feb. 6 & 13, 2013). FHSU went on to claim the MIAA regular season championship alongside Central Missouri that season. NWMSU has won the last nine meetings since, including eight during its current run of seven consecutive MIAA regular season titles.