The Missouri Western men lost a heart-breaker 62-58 to Fort Hays State Monday at MWSU Fieldhouse. Western fell to 7-13 overall and 2-12 in MIAA conference play.
“They hit some big shots, no question,” coach Tom Smith said. “It’s one of those years. I’m sure you get a little snakebite, and when you’re snakebite, people make those plays on you, and they are making the plays while we aren’t making the plays, and that’s the difference between winning and losing.”
The Griffons came out with a sense of urgency and held the Tigers to 8-for-32 shooting in the first half. Western went into the locker room with a 31-21 lead at the half-time break behind 11 first-half points from freshman guard Reed Mells. Western also held the advantage on the boards, out-rebounding Hays 22-14 in the first half.
“We just want to win. We are going to play high-energy defense, focus on finishing plays, and getting other people involved,” Lavonte Douglas said. “That’s our main focus and something we’ve got to do. We have to keep it up both halves.”
Hays guard Moses Dayee hit two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second-half to get it going for the Tigers.
With the Griffons up 43-36, the Tigers went on a 10-0 run over four minutes to grab their first lead of the game at the 10 minute mark in the second half. Hays extended its lead to 46-43 before Douglas tied the game up with a 3-point-play after making a lay-up and drawing the foul.
Dayee hit another 3-point shot with two minutes left to push the Tigers out to a 57-52 lead. Douglas hit a free-throw to make the score 57-53 before James Harris hit a 3-pointer to get the Griffons to within one point with 45 seconds left.
The next trip down the floor, Dayee hit a 3-point dagger from the left corner that sealed up the 62-58 victory for Hays. Missed free-throws hurt the Griffons down the stretch.
“I think it boils down to the free-throws,” Douglas said. “I shot bad from the line tonight, and that’s something I have to get back in my game. Lately I’ve been out there like Dwight Howard.”
Hays shot 25 percent in the first half and heated up in the second, shooting 56 percent. The Griffons have lost 10 of their last 11 games but are holding teams to under 70 points and showing improvement.
“We just got to find a way to get over the hump, and I think when we do that we will be fine,” Mells said. “We just got to keep playing together. The most frustrating part that it’s just one or two little mistakes that ends up losing it for us.”
Douglas, who led all scorers with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, pulled down six rebounds and stole the ball two times. Mells added 13 points, including 8-for-8 at the foul line and dished out three assists. Harris went for 13 points and five assists.
The Griffons go on a four-game road trip, starting on Feb. 4 at Southern Missouri. Western has two remaining home games, Feb. 22 and 25 against Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist.