PITTSBURG -- Pittsburg State closed out the first half on a 15-2 run to erase a 13-point deficit and the Gorillas staved off Fort Hays State down the stretch in a back-and-forth second half for a 72-69 victory Saturday (Jan. 19) at John Lance Arena.
JaVon McGee scored a game-high 22 points for the Gorillas (12-4, 5-3 MIAA), who snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series to the Tigers (10-5, 4-3 MIAA). McGee became the 22nd player in Pitt State history to eclipse 1,000 career points when he hit a pair of free throws with 5:47 remaining in the first half.
FHSU led 33-20 with 3:30 to play in the first half, before Pitt State closed out the half with a flurry to draw even at 35-35 on Sam Pugh's driving basket at the buzzer.
The Gorillas extended the streak into the second half, pushing in front 43-37 on a free throw by McGee with 14:53 to play in the game.
The Tigers scored the next six points to knot the score and the two teams traded one- or two-point leads for the next five minutes.
The Gorillas finally gained separation with a 12-3 run that turned a 55-55 game into a 67-58 advantage with 3:41 to go.
The game of runs continued, however, as FHSU scored eight straight to draw within a point, at 67-66, on Lance Russell's 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining.
The Gorillas built their lead back to five points, 71-66, on a basket by McGee with 17 seconds to play, but Russell hit a transition 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. FHSU then scored a Pitt State turnovers with 8.8 seconds remaining.
Russell, who fired in a team-leading 21 points for the Tigers, curled to the basket for a potential game-tying basket but his layup with 2.2 seconds left drew iron. Pitt State's Courtney Ingram made one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left to seal the win. FHSU was unable to get off a potential game-tying shot before the final buzzer sounded.
Marky Nolen contributed 16 points and eight rebounds to the Pitt State cause. Rico Pierrevilus added nine points and Sam Pugh chipped in with eight.
Craig Nicholson (15), Dwayne Brunson (14) and Ben Congiusta (11) also scored in double figures for the Tigers.
Pitt State will return to the road Wednesday (Jan. 23) when the Gorillas travel to Tahlequah, Okla., to face Northeastern State at 7:30 p.m. (CST) at Dobbins Field House.