FHSU Sports Information Department

BOLIVAR, Mo. – The Fort Hays State men’s basketball team secured a home game in the first round of the MIAA Tournament after holding off Southwest Baptist in the regular season finale Thursday evening (Feb. 23), 59-55.

The Tigers finish the regular season 17-10 overall and 11-8 in the MIAA, while SBU enters its final game Saturday 14-13 this season and 7-11 in league play. The Tigers will finish tied for fourth in the regular season standings, but an early loss to Missouri Southern gives the Lions the final bye to Kansas City.

Senior Rob Davis hit a three-pointer midway through the first half, giving the Detroit, Mich. native more than 2,000 points in his collegiate career.

Although Southwest Baptist led for much of the opening 20 minutes, the Tigers took a 31-30 lead into the break. Fort Hays State played impeccable defense out of the locker room, limiting SBU to 2-of-16 shooting in the first 11 minutes of the second half and forcing four Bearcat turnovers. The Tigers scored 13-straight after the game was tied at 35 to take a commanding 48-35 lead with less than 10 minutes to play. Hadley Gillum hit multiple mid-range jumpers with the shot clock winding down to keep the momentum with the Tigers.

Southwest Baptist wouldn’t go down without a fight on its home floor, scoring seven points in a row to cut the lead to six, 48-42. Gillum hit another jumper and added two free throws later to keep the Bearcats at bay. Davis buried a three-pointer with 4:35 on the clock to put the Tigers back in front by double-figures, 55-44.

The Bearcats had one more rally in their back pocket, closing within a single score on a three-pointer with 91 seconds to play, 57-54. The Tigers turned the ball over with 1:05 on the clock, giving the home team a chance to tie. Cartier Dean was fouled going to the hoop and hit one of two free throws, trimming the lead to two. Fort Hays State ran the clock down to 23 seconds before a Davis three-pointer missed short, but the Tigers were granted the ball after the rebound went out of bounds off an SBU defender. Trey O’Neil hit a free throw to stretch the lead back to three, 58-55, giving the Bearcats one last chance to tie. Instead of getting off a shot, a pass was mishandled, turning the ball over for the 16th and final time. Davis hit a free throw with one tick remaining to clinch the four-point victory.

Gillum led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, adding a 6-for-6 effort from the charity stripe and a career-high four steals. JaQuan Smith contributed 16 points and two blocks, finishing a rebound shy of a double-double. Davis scored 12 on the night, reaching double-figures for the 24th time this season.

The Tigers will return to Gross Memorial Coliseum to host the first round of the MIAA Tournament Monday (Feb. 27) against a team to be determined. First tip is set for 7 p.m.

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