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Tiger men ailing from injuries

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University men's basketball team is 9-4 overall and 3-2 MIAA play. However, coach Mark Johnson has noticed the Tigers remain undefeated when they've had their entire roster. Throughout the season, FHSU has encountered multiple injuries, mainly to junior guard Carson Konrade (thigh) and junior center Andrew Victoria (Achilles, knee).

Last Thursday, Fort Hays lost in the final seconds at home to Washburn University, 70-69, in a contest where multiple Tigers fouled out and Victoria and Konrade didn't play.

Fort Hays is 5-0 when Konrade and Victoria both play, including a quality home win against University of Central Missouri and strong road victories versus Missouri Western State University and Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

"We don't have our whole team, so it's very hard for us to be that one unit," said junior forward Dwayne Brunson, the team leader at 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds a contest.

On Saturday, Fort Hays received a weekend off from conference action, a break that Johnson said the team needed.

On Wednesday, Fort Hays plays host to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Victoria is expected to play, while Konrade is a game-time decision.

Both players provide plenty of offense off the bench. Victoria has 26 points in just 49 minutes of game action, while Konrade has tallied 9.6 points per game. Konrade hasn't played in 2013 and is limited in practice. Konrade has had some tests and MRIs, but no structural damage was found to his thigh or leg. Johnson labeled the injury "a pretty deep thigh bruise."

"He is still just not all the way right," Johnson said.

SBU, traditionally one of the MIAA's stronger teams, has a new look squad this season and has struggled to a 5-9, 3-3 MIAA start. However, SBU has won three straight. Sophomore Preston Guiot is third in the league at five assists a contest. The Bearcats, long known for shooting 3s, is tied for first in the league in treys made (113).

Prior to Washburn, FHSU had rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes and won at Emporia State University in overtime. Out of a possible 85 minutes in the two contests, senior Lance Russell has played 84, senior guard Ben Congiusta and freshman point guard Craig Nicholson have tallied 83 apiece and Brunson has played 60.

"We've tried to take a couple days off," Johnson said. "The group that has been playing has been playing a lot of minutes. We're at that point in the season, I think they needed a little bit of a break. I think the guys injured then needed to get healthy. We have only been at it a couple of times, and I think our practices have been fine. It was a tough loss on Thursday for sure against Washburn."