The Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team and University of Nebraska-Kearney are in a similar boat.
But while the Tigers have had to overcome recent struggles with injuries, the Lopers have been injury-prone all season long, playing a bulk of the year thus far without two of its top players.
FHSU, on the other hand, recently suffered two setbacks on the road where the Tigers lost a key contributor and its starting point guard in back-to-back contests. Also, the Tigers have battled illness, wisdom tooth operations and who knows what else?
“We’re kind of a beat up bunch,” Tiger coach Mark Johnson said.
The coach added he was thankful for a rare mid-week break right after the holiday break.
“I don’t know how many bodies we’d be throwing out there to play.”
The only player, however, Johnson was unsure of the availability was junior starting point guard Kyler Kinnamon. Coming off an ankle injury sustained in the first few minutes of Saturday’s overtime loss at Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University, the coach wasn’t sure if Kinnamon would be available when FHSU tips off at 4 p.m. against UNK at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
UNK, which finished third in the league a year ago, returned virtually everyone from that team. However, the injuries have played a key factor in the Lopers’ 6-9 start (2-4 in MIAA play).
FHSU sits 10-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play ahead of Saturday’s game, the first of two key games against the bottom half of the conference before next week’s showdown with previously top ranked Northwest Missouri State University.
“(UNK) is getting those guys back,” Johnson said. “They put it on us last year.”
UNK’s trip to Hays last February resulted in a 101-88 win for the visitors, part of a season sweep by the Lopers. They are led by Trey Lansman’s 22.3 points per night. Johnson calls Lansman probably the second best player in the league behind Northwest Missouri’s Justin Pitts.
FHSU, while struggling through some shooting woes in conference play (40 percent) continues to look for someone consistent to step up to supplement the scoring of senior Hadley Gillum (17.3 points per game) and junior Brady Werth (10.9 points per game).
If Kinnamon can’t go at point guard, the Tigers likely will see a combination of sophomore Aaron Nicholson and junior Trey O’Neil at that spot.
“See who’s playing the best, and that will be who gets the most minutes.”
Following Saturday’s game, FHSU is at home Thursday against Missouri Western (3-10, 1-5) before taking on Pitts and Northwest Missouri on Jan. 21.