Fort Hays State (12-6, 7-5 MIAA) at
#24/RV Emporia State (15-3, 9-3 MIAA)
Sunday, January 22 - 5:00 PM
Emporia, Kan. - White Auditorium
Radio: KJLS (103.3)
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The Fort Hays State men's basketball team plays its only regular season contest against Emporia State on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. from White Auditorium in Emporia. FHSU enters at 12-6 overall, 7-5 in the MIAA, while ESU is ranked No. 24 in the NABC Top 25 Poll and enters at 15-3 overall, 9-3 in the MIAA.
The Tigers are looking to continue their recent success in Emporia, winning eight of the last nine meetings with the Hornets at White Auditorium. The Tigers escaped with a 78-76 win in overtime in the only meeting last year, which was also in Emporia. FHSU won seven straight meetings in Emporia from 2011-12 to 2018-19, which was the longest run of consecutive wins for FHSU in Emporia in the all-time series. The Hornets broke up the run in 2019-20 with a three-point win before FHSU won the last meeting. Three of Fort Hays State's wins at White Auditorium since the 2011-12 season have been in overtime.
Head coach Mark Johnson has more wins against Emporia State than any other school while coaching at FHSU. He holds a 23-11 mark against the Hornets in 34 meetings between the schools since he started in 2001-02. The other two schools he has at least 20 wins against are Nebraska-Kearney (21) and Missouri Southern (20).
Fort Hays State and Emporia State are among the nation's best in NCAA Division II for scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. The Tigers rank second nationally in scoring defense, allowing 58.4 points per game. They are only 0.2 per game behind national leader Southern Nazarene. The Hornets rank 22nd in scoring defense, allowing 63.6 points per game. FHSU is 13th in field goal percentage defense with opponents shooting 39.5 percent for the season. ESU is close behind in 15th with opponents shooting 39.7 percent overall.
Emporia State enters Sunday on a five-game win streak and currently sits in third in the MIAA standings. The run includes home wins over Lincoln, Central Missouri, and Nebraska-Kearney, and a pair of road wins at Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern. The last loss for the Hornets was on January 2nd at nationally ranked Central Oklahoma. Earlier this season, the Hornets knocked off a No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State team in White Auditorium. ESU is 7-1 at home so far this season with its only loss to Missouri Western following that win over Northwest Missouri State.
Fort Hays State is 3-3 so far in the month of January, going in a win-loss pattern throughout the month. The Tigers are coming off a 74-64 loss at Washburn on Wednesday evening. It was only the second game this season the Tigers allowed 70 or more points to the opposition and the first time since December 1 when FHSU defeated Northeastern State in overtime. The Tigers will be looking to slow a Hornet team that has scored at least 70 in their last four games.
The Tigers will be looking to snap a string of 13 straight losses to NABC Top 25 ranked teams. Their last win over an NABC ranked team occurred in 2018-19 with an 89-84 win over a No. 25 ranked Missouri Southern team in Hays. The Tigers also look for their first win over an NABC ranked team in a true road game since the 2015-16 season, when they defeated No. 15 ranked Central Missouri in Warrensburg 69-68.
Kaleb Hammeke leads the Tigers in scoring at 15.8 points per game. He has scored in double figures in 16 of 18 games so far this season and has reached double figures in all games away from Gross Memorial Coliseum. Elijah Nnanabu has scored in double figures in four of the last five games and ranks second on the team in scoring at 9.4 points per game. Traejon Davis, who averaged 10.5 points over the last two games, leads the team in field goal percentage (56.8). Bjarni Jonsson has the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team at 50 percent following a 3-of-3 effort at Washburn Wednesday night. Gilbert Peters leads the team in free-throw percentage, hitting at an 88 percent clip. Gabe Pieschl leads the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game and has three double-doubles in points and rebounds this season.
Owen Long leads the Emporia State scoring attack at 16.9 points per game. He is shooting a shade over 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line this season and 63.3 percent of his made field goals this season have been 3-point field goals. He is also a strong free-throw shooter at 89.5 percent for the season. Alijah Comithier is the top rebounder for the Hornets and is the only other player on the team averaging double figures in scoring at 14.8 points per game.