Washburn at Fort Hays State
Thursday, November 19, 2020 – 7:30 pm
Hays, Kan. – Gross Memorial Coliseum
Radio: KJLS (103-3.FM)
Listen Live: Hays Post
Game Sponsor: Heartland Building Center
HAYS, Kan. – Fort Hays State Men's Basketball will play its 2020-21 season opener on Thursday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum, playing host to long-time in-state rival Washburn. Game time is 7:30 pm. There will not be a women's contest before the men's game, as it has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 testing protocols.
With the schedule shortened to 22 games in 2020-21, the Tigers will play exclusively conference games. This first week of action features a pair of teams that FHSU will meet only once this season, which happens to be two of their longest rivals in Washburn and Emporia State. The Hornets will be coming to town on Saturday afternoon.
This marks the first time the Tigers open a season with a conference game since 1929, when FHSU opened Central Intercollegiate Conference play with Wichita State in Hays. Wichita State claimed that meeting by a slim 26-25 margin inside Sheridan Coliseum in Hays.
This will be the first home game to open a season since 2015-16, when the Tigers hosted Southwest Minnesota State. The Tigers pulled out that meeting by one point, 76-75, leaving head coach Mark Johnson undefeated in season openers that have been at home on his watch. The Tigers are 9-0 under Johnson when opening the season at home. Johnson enters his 20th season at the helm of the Tigers, carrying a 373-186 record into the game, and the Tigers are 14-5 overall in season openers during his tenure. Three of the five losses have been on neutral courts, while the other two were in true road contests.
Jared Vitztum is the top returning scorer for the Tigers after averaging 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last year. He also was the team leader in field goals made (134), 3-point field goals made (47), free-throws made (93), free-throw attempts (117), field goal percentage (.573), 3-point field goal percentage (.511), and blocked shots (13). Nyjee Wright is the only other returning starter to the roster this year, but will likely be out for the opener due to injury. He averaged 10 points per game last year.
Washburn leads the all-time series with FHSU 97-71. FHSU has a strong advantage all-time in Hays at 48-32, but Washburn has countered that with a 63-20 record against the Tigers on its home turf. Washburn won last year's meeting between the teams in Hays by a score of 75-72, running its win streak to five games over FHSU going back to the 2016-17 season.
This match up features two of only 11 programs in NCAA Division II that have over 1,600 wins in history. Fort Hays State has 1,615 wins and Washburn has 1,602, so the two combine for 3,217 wins all-time.
MIAA coaches slated Washburn third and Fort Hays State seventh in their preseason poll released from the conference office last week. Washburn received votes in the first NABC Division II Top 25 Poll. Washburn finished 16-13 overall last year and finished 11-8 in the MIAA, while FHSU finished at 14-14 overall and 7-12 in the MIAA.