Fort Hays State men stun Kansas State, 81-68

Rick Peterson Jr.
Fort Hays State's Bjarni Jonsson drives inside during Fort Hays State' 81-68 win over Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday.

After a whirlwind 24 hours, the Fort Hays State men’s basketball team left Bramlage Coliseum riding high after delivering an upset win that caught national attention Tuesday night.

With their top two coaches in quarantine, the Tigers never trailed in a convincing 81-68 victory over Kansas State.

The Tigers did it with FHSU second-year assistant coach Todd Johnston in charge of guiding the team. Head coach Mark Johnson and associate head coach Jeremy Brown were in quarantine after Johnson received a positive COVID-19 test result on Monday night.

Johnston and the Tigers were up to the task, with FHSU outplaying the Wildcats from the get-go.

The game went down as an exhibition for FHSU but counted for Kansas State. Though it won’t show up in the win column, the magnitude of the victory can’t be overstated for a Tiger team that was coming off three losses by a combined eight points to Washburn, Emporia State and Nebraska-Kearney.

“I’m just excited for the guys,” Johnston said. “We’re 0-3 but we’re talented ... I hope that this carries over and helps us win games in the future. But I think just for confidence and mentally for these guys, to pull off (the win) was huge.”

FHSU took a 35-29 lead into halftime and led by as much as 21 in the second half.

“I thought the guys did a really good job of competing for 40 minutes,” Johnston said. “That’s one thing we’ve struggled with through three games so far -- start a game hard and finishing a game playing hard and doing all the things in between to win a game.

“I think that was the biggest thing. We defended well and played hard and rebounded well.”

The Tigers relied on a balanced scoring attack that saw six players reach double figures.

Jared Vitztum led Fort Hays 16, followed by Kaleb Hammeke with 15, Alvin Thompson and Quinten Rock with 14 each, Bjarni Jonsson with 12 and Gilbert Peters with 10.

Hammeke added seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.

The Tigers shot 55% from the field (32 of 58) while Kansas State (1-4) went 22 of 50 from the field for 44%.

“This was very, very disappointing and sad for our program,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the Wildcat loss.

Check back to and Thursday’s print edition for more on the Tigers’ win.