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Tigers pull away from Lions in second half

Jan. 11—Fort Hays State University came into the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center and used a 12-2 start to the second half to grab a 50-36 over Missouri Southern State University on Thursday night in Joplin.

The Tigers (12-3, 7-2 MIAA) used that run to pull away for an eventual 85-67 win over the Lions (5-9, 3-5 MIAA).

"We just couldn't keep anybody in front of us," MSSU head coach Sam McMahon said. "They were finishing in there. They're obviously a really good team. They had a couple guys who could go get a bucket, and they did just that."

Those two guys were Elijah Nnanabu and Kaleb Hammeke. Both showcased their speed and athleticism throughout the game by working quickly get to the basket whether it was on cuts or dribble drives into the lane.

"They're so shifty. It's hard to stay in front of those guys, and they get down there quickly. You saw that tonight," McMahon added.

MSSU jumped out to a big advantage after breaking an early 8-8 tie. It would go on to score the next 12 points of the game to lead 20-8. The run didn't stop there, as the lead eventually got up to 14 points at 26-12.

That lead came after Darius Dawson made one of two free throw attempts. At that point of the game, Dawson had 6 points. The Lions were spreading it out well as Cam Williams had 8, Sam Thompson 6, Parker Long 3 and Vinson Sigmon Jr. 3. Dawson, Long and Sigmon Jr. each had a 3-point basket.

The Lions were moving the ball well and utilizing Thompson's size on the interior, but that started to fade after the quick 26 points.

"They started doubling (Sam), and when we started missing shots they started sucking in and there were a lot of hands in there that made it hard to get going," McMahon said. "And early we were getting the ball movement."

That defensive effort from the Tigers was a game-changer. The stops on that end of the floor led to plenty of offense as FHSU tallied 47 points in the second half.

You could see things starting to flip in the direction of Fort Hays late in the first half as it outscored Southern 26-8 after trailing 26-12 early on.

Nnanabu scored 31 points in the contest and pulled down seven rebounds. Hammeke finished with 22 points and eight assists. Hammeke showed off some serious bounce as the 6-foot guard leaped up for a dunk in the first half to tie the game at 28.

MSSU was led by Thompson's 12 points. The 6-foot-10 junior big man scored the first 6 points of the game for the Lions. Dawson and Williams both scored 11. Thompson collected seven rebounds.

The Lions shot the ball at a 45% clip, making 26 of 58 shots, but surrendered a very efficient 56% shooting effort to the Tigers (33 for 59).

They only made 6 of 12 free throws in comparison to the Tigers' perfect 12 of 12 charities.

This Fort Hays team is receiving votes to be ranked nationally.

MSSU is back in action on Saturday as it hosts the University of Nebraska-Kearney at 3:30 p.m.