The Fort Hays State University menís basketball teamís season came to a bitter end Saturday with a 79-67 loss to the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
UNK, the nationís best in free-throw percentage, made 25 of 29 from the charity stripe, while Fort Hays made just 15 of 25 and just 4 of its first 12.
The Lopers led by as much as 12, but the Tigers crawled back within striking distance multiple times with the season on the line. Dom Samac cut the lead to three with 9:45 to play, but Trey Lansman beat the shot clock on a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to six.
The Tigers came up with a stop and went down the court facing just a four-point deficit. Rob Davis notched a steal and the Tigers ran an offensive set when Ty Danielson fouled Drew Kite while setting a screen.
Kite, who shoots under 50 percent from the free-throw line, missed the front end of the one-and-one with 6:40 to play and UNK used an 11-4 run to get the lead back to double digits.
Craig Nicholson, who is the all-time record holder for FHSU with 6.3 assists per game, finished with a team-high 19 points and four assists. He finished his career sixth on the schoolís scoring list with 1,449 career points. His 628 careers assist ranks second in program history, as do his 161 steals.
Seniors Jake Stoppel and Samac added 16 and 12 points, respectively, Samac added 12 rebounds to notch a double-double. Senior Kenny Enoch finished his career with a seven-point effort.
UNKís Connor Beranek finished 11-for-23, including 15-for-29 on free throws, to score a game-high 37 points. Lansman and Danielson added 16 points each, while Ethan Brozek added 10. Those four Lopers took all but one shot for UNK.
It was FHSUís seventh NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Mark Johnson and 13th overall. The Tigers finished 20-11 on the season, the ninth 20-win campaign under Johnson.