The shots have got to start falling sometime.
That’s a key question right now for 17th-year Fort Hays State University men’s basketball coach Mark Johnson.
His 10-5 Tiger team is coming off an 0-2 MIAA road swing during the weekend where FHSU put up two of its worst shooting performances of the season. Against University of Central Missouri, Johnson said, they ran into one of the best performances the Mules put up this year in an 81-66 loss. Meanwhile, FHSU played one of its worst games — hitting just 41 percent of its shots and posting less than 70 points for just the third time.
Then in an overtime loss against Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University, it happened again. As both teams struggled to score, SBU got hot in overtime to pull away for a 73-68 overtime victory. FHSU managed just 53 points by the end of regulation, shooting just 35 percent from the floor after losing starting point guard Kyler Kinnamon to an ankle injury.
“We couldn’t make shots,” Johnson said. “SBU deserves credit for that, but we had some good looks and they just didn’t fall.”
So with a few more practices this week — not playing a mid-week game — FHSU was focused on shooting ahead of its 4 p.m. Saturday tip against University of Nebraska-Kearney. The Tigers are right near the bottom of the MIAA in terms of shooting the ball, especially in conference play, where FHSU has hit just 40 percent of its shots from the floor (46 percent in all games). Furthermore in conference play, FHSU is hitting just 32 percent from 3-point range.
“We’re putting too much pressure on our defense,” Johnson said. “We have to have guys step up and shoot the ball, especially when we aren’t the best creators.”
Kinnamon, who left the SBU game just a few minutes in, was still questionable Wednesday to return this week with an ankle injury. The starting point guard is the best on the team at creating shots.
“When you can’t create, you better be able to knock your shots down at a high rate from the perimeter and we’re just not doing that right now,” Johnson said.
However bad it might seem, though, there is a bright spot. FHSU still sits 10-5 and 3-3 in MIAA play in a tie for seventh place entering a key home stretch. Plus, the Tigers are getting solid shooting off the bench in the form of Grant Holmes (55 percent in MIAA) and Aaron Nicholson (44 percent in MIAA). Plus, Hadley Gillum is averaging 19.2 points per game in conference play while hitting 51 percent from the floor. The Plainville senior also is among the best in the conference at the free throw line, where he has hit 90 percent in conference play.
“We’re getting some quality looks, it’s just not being able to make shots,” Johnson said. “It’s happening a little more than we want. When we make our 3s, we play really well. That’s key for everybody.”