The Lincoln men's basketball team continued to defend its home court at Jason Gym, beating an MIAA team that had a win against a Division I opponent on its resume.
The Blue Tigers improved to 5-0 at home with Saturday's 76-64 victory against the Fort Hays State Tigers.
"We didn't play particularly well, but we competed," Lincoln coach John Moseley said. " All in all, it's another MIAA win."
The Blue Tigers held the Tigers to 28 points in the second half, finishing the game with 13 steals on 17 Fort Hays State turnovers. Lincoln's Yaniel Vidal had five of those steals, including four in the second half.
"I really thought the difference was Ya Vidal in the second half," Moseley said. "His defensive intensity led to a couple of hustle plays, and it just spread within our team. The energy level went up."
Lincoln had a high energy level to start the game. Sevon Witt scored back-to-back baskets on inside looks to put the Blue Tigers ahead 9-2 just more than four minutes into the game.
"He can be a load," Moseley said. "Every team knows it. After he got off to a good start, there were times when he had three guys around him."
Fort Hays State only made two field goals in the game's first nine minutes, but the Tigers wouldn't stay behind for long.
The 3-point shot quickly became the prefered shot for Fort Hays State, which made five shots from deep in a stretch of 4:16 that started just after the midway point of the first half. That turned a 17-12 deficit into a 31-27 lead with 5:30 to play.
The Tigers shot 6-of-14 from 3 in the first half, knocking down their sixth 3 with 3:41 to go in the half to build their largest lead of the game at 34-29.
"Because of the matchups, we switched to a zone (defense) — two different kinds of zones — and against both defenses, they made 3s," Moseley said. "Then you're like, 'Uh oh, what do we do?' We couldn't match up well and they could score against a zone."
Vidal answered with a pair of 3s from the left side to help rally the Blue Tigers to a 37-36 advantage at halftime.
"We kept battling and got a defensive stop or two," Moseley said. "When we went in at halftime, I'm glad we were up, but we just hadn't played very well."
That's when Quinton Drayton stepped up.
The Lincoln junior scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, and he accounted for 14 of the Blue Tigers' first 16 points after halftime.
"When he does get it going, he's fun to watch," Moseley said. "He's fun to coach when he gets it going, because he can score it from all three levels — he can hit a 3, he can hit in mid-range and he can get to the basket."
Nine of those points came from 3-point range, and Drayton added a dunk off a steal near mid-court by Vidal. But Fort Hays State wouldn't go away, trailing 53-47 with 12:39 to play.
The Tigers closed it back to one possession at 55-52 near the midway point of the second half, but the Blue Tigers stretched the lead with a 14-4 run spanning seven minutes.
Ni'Sean Rigmaiden capped the run with a pair of layups, including a coast-to-coast layup with 3:04 to play that gave Lincoln its largest lead at 69-56.
"We wanted to get away from that 5-point lead," Moseley said. "We wanted to make sure we had a little more separation."
Witt finished with 18 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:27 to play. Vidal and Rigmaiden also scored in double figures with 12 points each.
Fort Hays State (3-6), which defeated Kansas State in an exhibition game earlier this season, was led by Alvin Thompson with 16 points. Jared Vitztum had a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Traejon Davis added 10 points off the bench.
Lincoln improves to 6-2 overall in the conference-only schedule. The Blue Tigers have won a program-record 11 MIAA games in four seasons dating back to 1970-71. A winning record in the 22-game schedule would give the Blue Tigers their most MIAA wins in a single season.
"We don't want to just be a good program," Moseley said. "Good is the enemy of great, that's the quote I often say to the guys. We're just trying to demand their best every day."
Lincoln will go on the road for its next two games, starting Thursday at Newman (2-7). The Blue Tigers won in overtime on the road last season against the Jets.
"Now the challenge becomes going on the road and winning on the road, which is something we haven't done consistently," said Moseley, whose team is 1-2 on the road this season. "We had a really good win at Emporia State, and now we need to see if we can follow it up with a big trip next week."