HAYS -- Fort Hays State Men's Basketball was on the short end of another tight battle at Gross Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Emporia State edged FHSU by a score of 68-66 as a long heave by the Tigers midway between the 3-point line and halfcourt fell off the mark at the buzzer. The Tigers start the young season 0-2, while the Hornets improved to 2-0.
There were 14 lead changes and 12 ties. Neither team ever led by more than four points throughout the entire contest.
Emporia State took a two-point lead of 32-30 into halftime when Jumah'Ri Turner hit a 3-point field goal at the buzzer. He led the Hornets in the first half with 12 points. Quinten Rock led the Tigers at halftime with eight points off the bench.
Jared Vitztum struggled from the field in the first half, going 0-of-5 and had just three points all at the free-throw line. He countered that in the second half by getting to the free-throw line 13 times in the second half and he finished with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was 13-of-17 at the charity stripe.
Emporia State pushed the advantage in its favor with about 1:40 remaining in the game when they created a turnover that led to a fast break dunk. That left the Tigers trying to play catch up the remainder of the game. Kaleb Hammeke tied the game at 1:05 with a pull-up jump shot in the lane, however the Hornets made one-of-two free throws in response and picked up a key offensive rebound that led to two more points and a three-point lead. Hammeke pulled the Tigers back within one with a driving layup with 15 ticks left on the clock.
The teams traded a pair of free throws over the next 10 seconds, two from Austin Downing of ESU and two from Alvin Thompson of FHSU. Turner then missed the front end of a two-shot foul situation to leave ESU up by just two. The Tigers had just 3.5 seconds to move the ball the length of the floor, which resulted in a running heave from Hammeke at the buzzer, but it was a bit long as the Tigers a tough luck loss for the second time in three nights.
Outside of Vitztum's 20 points, Thompson finished with 11 as the only other scorer in double figures for the Tigers. The Tigers shot 40 percent from the field, but struggled beyond the 3-point arc, going just 4-of-21 (19 percent). FHSU was 22-of-27 at the free-throw line (81.5 percent).
Downing led the Hornets with 19 points, followed by Turner with 18. Mason Thiessen also reached double figures in scoring with 11.
Next on the slate for FHSU is a road contest at Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday, December 5.