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Bench playing big for FHSU

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University men's basketball team went just four deep into the bench in last Saturday's 79-65 victory at Northeastern (Okla.) State University. The quartet of senior forward Andrew Victoria, junior forward Jared Tadlock and junior guards James Fleming and Achoki Moikobu, combined for nine points, six rebounds and three assists. Victoria especially provided key first half minutes in relief of senior forward Dwayne Brunson.

The bench helped the Tigers win their sixth straight conference game, including four on the road. FHSU is back in the mix at 14-3 overall, 6-3 MIAA.

"When we have turned the corner here, it's been our bench," coach Mark Johnson said.

On Thursday, FHSU plays its final non-conference game of the season when it plays host to South Dakota School of Mines in a 7:30 p.m. start at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Mines stands at 6-12 and Michael Dietz leads the Hardrockers at 14.1 points per contest. Sophomore point guard Craig Nicholson collected MIAA Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

The reserves have especially come through on the road.

Fleming, a first-year transfer from Fort Scott Community College, opened the season with 17 and 13 points in his first two games.

Then, he had three double-figure contests in his next 13 contests. Last Thursday, Fleming came off the bench and scored a career-high 20 points in a 101-97 overtime road victory at University of Central Oklahoma. Versus NSU, Fleming was 0 of 4 shooting.

"Being a new player, that's going to happen," Johnson said. "You are going to have an inconsistent time, just trying to figure some things out. You are still trying to gain your confidence.

"You can just see the guys that have been here, Dwayne, Carson (Konrade) and Craig -- they play with confidence," he added. "I think that's just a matter of time. That will happen for James. He looked to shoot the ball with aggressiveness like he did against Central Oklahoma."

Victoria combined for 26 points and 21 rebounds in two road wins against Missouri Southern State University and Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University on Jan. 4 and Jan. 6 this season.

"Andrew and those guys have done better," Johnson said. "James gave us a real quality Central Oklahoma game. Our bench, on the road, has done well. It seems like at home, they have struggled. We have got to be able to make them relax in the home games like our bench does on the road."