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Tiger men rely heavily on three players

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University men's basketball coach Mark Johnson recently looked at the MIAA leaders in minutes played. Senior guard Ben Congiusta is first at 33.7 minutes. No other player ranks in the top 10, but senior Lance Russell and freshman point Craig Nicholson are close. Russell stands at 31.3 minutes per contest and Nicholson is at 30.9 minutes played. Only University of Nebraska-Kearney, tied for last in the league, relies more heavily on three players.

Fort Hays has managed to stay in the upper half of the conference at 10-5, 4-3 MIAA. This week, the Tigers finish a brutal stretch with five of seven games played on the road. FHSU will travel to Lindenwood (Mo.) University (11-4, 4-3 MIAA) and Truman State (6-10, 3-5 MIAA) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

Johnson believes "that's too much" playing time and would like to cut down on minutes for the trio.

"We are hitting a wall, and we are getting tired," he said. "It's really hard to play this many minutes. I think from a coaching standpoint, what we are trying to do, going into his weekend, is we are going to try to limit some minutes there. Instead of playing 38 to 40, we are going to try to get it down to maybe 34 for those guys."

Johnson is still trying to figure out how to do that effectively.

"I don't feel like we can change our style," Johnson said. "So we need to find a way to incorporate more guys and give more guys a chance."

Junior forward Dwayne Brunson stands tenth in the MIAA in scoring at 15.2 points a contest. The other three players average between 14.2 and 13.1 points a contest.

"Our big guys are fine," Johnson said. "We have enough big guys that we are throwing out here. We are trying to play small a lot."

Johnson said the main reasons why the three players are on the court so frequently is a comfort level and little production from the bench.

"We need to give those guys more rest as we go forward in the season," Johnson said. "What you would like to do when you don't maybe have a deep team, you would like to maybe slow the game down a little bit, get yourself a little rest. But kind of the situation that we have if we do that, we feel like Craig is at his best in transition. ... Sometimes Ben and some our guys get their best looks in transition before the defense is set."