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Mules outlast No. 15 Tigers

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

WARRENSBURG, Mo. - Coach Mark Johnson, sophomore point guard Craig Nicholson and senior guard Carson Konrade were all in agreement: The Fort Hays State University men's basketball team let one slip away.

The Tigers led virtually all of the final 80 seconds of regulation and had chances to win the game or put it out of reach. Instead, Johnson said the Tigers failed to do the "little things" and took a frustrating 93-85 overtime loss to the University of Central Missouri on Thursday night.

Fort Hays, ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II, dropped to 7-1, 0-1 MIAA. The Mules, receiving votes nationally, moved to 7-1, 1-0 MIAA after another memorable chapter among two teams consistently at the top in the conference. FHSU trailed by 13 with 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half, but rallied late.

"We started out slow," Nicholson said. "We decided to play hard at the last minute, but we just made a lot of little mistakes that made us end up losing."

The lead changed 16 times and there were 10 ties. FHSU moved to 1-6 all-time in Warrensburg.

"It was a heck of a college basketball game," Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. "We turned the ball over too much, but I was glad that we could come out here with a win against a great team."

However, the Tigers let the Mules score too quickly late in regulation on one possession, and Nicholson was 1 of 4 on free throws in the final 17 seconds. Senior forwards Dwayne Brunson and Andrew Victoria fouled out in overtime.

"It's a combination of a lot of things, there wasn't just one thing," Johnson said. "It's disappointing. That was a game we thought we should have won. I thought our guys showed very good character to get ourselves in that position. It could have been very easy to get beat by double figures."

A depleted Tiger team entered the contest with multiple injuries. Junior forward Jake Stoppel played for the first time since Nov. 19 after he severely sprained his ankle. Stoppel played just five minutes and was hobbled. Brunson, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, had a knee issue that required a brace.

Senior forward Marty Wendel (four points, two rebounds, two blocks) and junior guard Achoki Moikobu (six points, three rebounds, three assists) played well off the bench. Konrade finished with a career-high 30 points, including 11 of 14 from the field and 6 of 8 from long range.

Officials whistled the Tigers for 31 fouls, 11 more than the Mules. Central Missouri had a 45-25 edge in free throws.

"It seemed like we weren't being aggressive, but we was," Nicholson said. "They just weren't calling the same calls that they were calling for them."

Fort Hays trailed 36-33 at halftime, but stayed close in the second half. UCM has won 17 straight home contests.

"They guarded us really well, but we looked like a team that was on the road and had just been in a hotel and had rode in the bus," Johnson said. "I didn't feel like we were real sharp in the first half. I thought the second half, the focus was much better. I thought we played a very good second half. We just didn't close the last 30 seconds of the game."

FHSU took its largest lead at 70-67 with 80 seconds left. Moikobu lost control of the ball at the top of the key and several Mules converged. At the last second, Moikobu tossed the ball to a wide-open Konrade on the left wing, who sunk a 3.

"Just kind of a fluke deal," Konrade said. "They all collapsed in and tried to get the loose ball. Kind of just flipped it out, and I was there, and nobody was there. I shot it and knocked it down. It was a big play at the time.

Nicholson, who scored all 16 points in the second half and overtime, hit two foul shots with 31.9 seconds for a 72-69 lead. On the ensuing possession, UCM point guard Daylen Robinson (team-high 20 points) quickly drove down the left side and scored a virtually uncontested layup to cut the lead to one.

"We just let them score too quickly," Johnson said.

Nicholson, an 83 percent foul shooter, missed his first two free throws with 17 seconds left.

"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know. I just missed them. I was trying not to think about it, but there's no excuse. I should have made them."

Anderson didn't want Nicholson on the line. Last week, UCM lost 81-78 in overtime to St. Mary's (Tex.) when Robinson missed a free throw with 2.5 seconds left.

"We were pretty much in a situation where we had to foul anybody," Anderson said. "Craig always has the ball. We try to keep Craig from having the ball. That's impossible to do. He's the last guy that I want up there."

Robinson drew a foul and made both free throws for a 73-72 Central Missouri lead. Nicholson was fouled with 3.6 seconds left, but missed the first one. The second one swirled in to force overtime.

"That just happens," Johnson said. "There was other plays in the game that cost you the game. He just stepped up and missed. That happens to everybody, and he gets that opportunity again, I am sure that he will make them."

Brunson fouled out in the first 26 seconds of overtime and FHSU never led. The Tigers will travel to Missouri Western State University on Saturday afternoon.

"We need to get a win Saturday and go at least .500 on this road trip, and then we will be all right," Konrade said.

Central Missouri 93 Fort Hays 85 (OT)

FHSU (7-1, 0-1 MIAA)

Dwayne Brunson 6-16 5-6 17, Tadlock 1-5 0-0 2, Craig Nicholson 2-8 12-15 16, Carson Konrade 11-14 2-2 30, Gabric 1-5 0-0 2, Moikobu 2-8 0-0 6, Fleming 2-8 0-0 6, Victoria 0-2 2-2 2, Wendel 2-2 0-0 4, Stoppel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals - 27-69 21-25 85.

UCM (7-1, 1-0 MIAA)

Dillon Deck 7-11 5-10 19, Kyle Wolf 6-10 4-4 17, Brunz 0-0 0-0 0, Daylen Robinson 5-10 10-12 20, Gilliam 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Magdziarz 3-3 4-5 11, White 0-4 0-0 0, Jordan Epps 4-11 5-8 13, O'Brien 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Donald 4-6 5-6 13. Totals - 29-56 33-45 93.

FHSU 33 40 12 - 85

UCM 36 37 20 - 93

3-point goals - FHSU 10-26 (Konrade 6-8, Tadlock 0-2, Nicholson 0-2, Moikobu 2-6, Fleming 2-8); UCM 2-8 (Wolf 1-5, Gilliam 0-1, Magdziarz 1-1, Epps 0-1). Fouls - FHSU 31, UCM 20. Technical fouls - Magdziarz, UCM. Fouled out - Brunson, Victoria, FHSU; Deck, White, UCM.

Rebounds - FHSU 24 (Brunson 10); UCM 48 (Robinson 10). Assists - FHSU 19 (Nicholson 11); UCM 9 (Robinson 7). Steals - FHSU 9 (Nicholson 4); UCM 3 (Magdziarz 2). Blocks - FHSU 5 (Brunson, Wendel 2); UCM 3 (Donald 2). Turnovers - FHSU 8, UCM 16. A- 1,825.