Tiger men grind out win
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team opened the 2013-14 season 7-0 and tallied at least 89 points in five contests. Four times the Tigers shot at least 50 percent from 3-point range.
Then, the Tigers opened 0-3 in MIAA play, but averaged 79.3 points per contest and shot at least 50 percent in two games.
“I told our guys I thought we were playing better offense when we started off 0-3,” coach Mark Johnson said.
However, FHSU has won three straight conference contests, including a grind-it-out 70-61 win against Lindenwood (Mo.) University on Thursday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The output was the Tigers’ fewest points this season and fewest in the team’s last 15 wins dating back to Feb. 13.
“We’ve played worse offense, and we are 3-0,” Johnson said. “It just shows you that if you can guard and rebound, you can win the games. We did that tonight.
Hopefully we can get back on track.”
FHSU moved to 11-3, 3-3 MIAA and Johnson improved to 257-109 in his 13-year career as Tiger head coach and tied Cade Suran for the most victories in program history. Johnson will have a chance to break the mark against Lincoln (Mo.) University on Saturday afternoon at GMC.
“When the season is over, I think that is something that you go back and look at and appreciate,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately when it comes to those things, it goes in one person’s name. There is so many people that are responsible for that and deserve credit for that.”
Fort Hays received 18 points, six rebounds and 30 minutes from hobbled senior forward Dwayne Brunson. Senior Carson Konrade led the team with 19 points, including several key baskets late. FHSU shot 48 percent from the field and 4 of 16 from 3-point range. Lindenwood, paced by 19 points from senior guard Tyler Ressel, moved to 8-9, 3-4 MIAA.
“It was ugly, but we had to get the job done,” Brunson said.
Brunson played 30 minutes and scored 17 points combined in two road games last weekend.
The Tigers played without senior forward Marty Wendel (broken hand, out four to six weeks) and junior guard John Clarke (pink eye).
“I feel like my team needs me,” Brunson said. “I feel like I can help the team.”
Brunson, the team leader with 17 points and eight rebounds a game, can’t bend his knee past a certain point. The injury has thrown off his shot some, but he finished 9 of 18. Brunson has worked not focusing on the injury and keeping his mind on the game.
“I can only make certain movements on my leg, so I just try to not go too hard on it,” he said.
Konrade entered the week fourth in NCAA Division II at 56.3 percent from 3-point range. He finished 3 of 7 from 3-point range as the Tigers shot under 40 percent on 3s for the sixth time in the last seven games.
“Outside of Carson, I think we are just all in a slump right now,” Johnson said.
FHSU’s defense helped the Tigers never trail and take a 30-27 lead into the half. The Lions shot 39 percent from the field. Outside of Ressel, no one scored in double figures.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Johnson said. “I think we just found a gutsy way to win with defense.”
Lindenwood runs more of a pattern offense, a scheme Johnson said FHSU is better defensively against than an offense that puts the ball on the floor and makes plays. The Lions had just 52 points before three treys from Ressel in the final 76 seconds.
“You have to chase those guys all night long,” Johnson said. “I thought our guards did a really good job of wing denying and chasing those shooters off all those screens.”
Lindenwood closed the gap to 48-45 and forced a Tiger timeout with 9:02 left. On the next possession, Brunson hit a jumper and then blocked a shot.
“Today he was determined to be a good player,” Johnson said.
Then, Konrade collected a defensive rebound off another Brunson block and passed to sophomore point guard Craig Nicholson in transition. Nicholson found Konrade for a layup.
FHSU finished with a 15-9 edge in points off turnovers and 8-0 in fast break points.
“You have got to find a way to get easy baskets when you are really having a hard time shooting the ball,” Johnson said. “I think pressuring them led to turnovers and led us to get onto the break and get some finishes. Probably that was the stat of the game.”
Nicholson moved the lead to 54-45 with 7:33 left when he split the defense for another layup. Nicholson had seven points and 11 assists and has 601 points and 310 assists for his career. He is the seventh player in Tiger history to reach 300 assists.
Lindenwood closed to 56-52, but Konrade scored 12 straight points and Brunson punctuated the scoring with a dunk.
Fort Hays 70, Lindenwood 61
LINDENWOOD (8-9, 3-4)
Tyler Ressel 7-15 0-0 19, Reeg 2-8 3-4 7, Jaehnen 1-3 1-1 3, Smith 2-8 5-6 9, Boos 0-3 0-0 0, Marquardt 3-6 0-0 9, Ramirez 3-5 0-0 6, Van Osdale 0-1 0-0 0, Mader 4-8 0-0 8. Totals — 22-57 9-11 61.
FORT HAYS (11-3, 3-3)
Dwayne Brunson 9-18 0-0 18, Carson Konrade 6-12 4-4 19, Stoppel 4-6 1-2 9, Nicholson 3-7 1-3 7, Gabric 2-5 0-0 5, Moikobu 0-1 0-0 0, Fleming 2-5 2-2 6, Tadlock 0-3 0-0 0, Victoria 3-4 0-0 6. Totals — 29-61 8-11 70.
Lindenwood 27 34 — 61
Fort Hays 30 40 — 70
3-point goals — LU 8-15 (Smith 0-2, Boos 0-1, Ressel 5-8, Marquardt 3-4); FH 4-16 (Nicholson 0-2, Konrade 3-7, Gabric 1-2, Moikobu 0-1, Fleming 0-2, Tadlock 0-2). Assists — LU 13 (Smith 4); FH 19 (Nicholson 11). Steals — LU 2 (Smith 2); FH 7 (Konrade 3). Blocks — LU 3 (Jaehnen 2); FH 6 (Brunson 5). Total fouls — LU 12, FH 13. Fouled otu — none. Technical fouls — none.
Rebounds — LU 34 (Smith 8); FH 35 (Gabric 7). Turnovers — LU 13, FH 7. A — 2,034.