FHSU at home tonight
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
Compared to the first three league games, Mark Johnson didn't think his Fort Hays State University men's basketball team played "that much better" offensively in last weekend's road trip against Missouri Southern State University and Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University. The Tigers struggled some from the outside and didn't shoot the ball like it did in non-conference action.
Senior forward Dwayne Brunson continues to hobble from his knee injury and now has an Achilles issue from not being able to run properly because of the knee problem. Johnson believes Brunson will eventually need surgery. Brunson also took a big hit to his nose this weekend. FHSU first thought it was broke, but it ended up not broken.
He played just 31 combined minutes and Johnson believes Brunson will not be 100 percent the rest of the year.
"He has got to play through it," Johnson said. "I feel bad for him, we all do. It's his senior year. He is a great player."
However, helped by the emergence of sophomore forward Jake Stoppel and senior forward Andrew Victoria, FHSU earned two big victories last Saturday and Monday.
"I don't think rebounding and defense you should never call little things, but I guess the non-flashy things we did better," Johnson said.
Fort Hays moved to 10-3, 2-3 MIAA and won at MSSU and SBU in the same season for the first time in school history. Victoria finished with eight points and 10 rebounds versus Southern and enjoyed his best contest as a Tiger with 18 points and 11 rebounds against SBU.
"Andrew was tremendous," Johnson said. "I hate to single out one guy necessarily to say why they were the main reason why we had success, but I think Andrew would definitely be one of the main reasons."
This weekend, FHSU plays host to Lindenwood (Mo.) University (8-8, 3-3 MIAA) tonight and faces Lincoln (Mo.) University (2-12, 0-8 MIAA) on Saturday. Games start at 5:30 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Saturday. Johnson is one win away from tying Cade Suran for the most career victories in Tiger history at 257.
"What we have done by winning those two games, it just makes this week more important," Johnson said. "When you start winning games, it's not time to relax. In means that the next games become that much more important and that much more meaningful."
Victoria, bothered by injuries virtually his entire two-year FHSU career, has gotten healthier in the last month.
"His knee, he is moving better," Johnson said. "Hopefully he can continue that. We realize Andrew is one possession away from having his knee bother him again. In practice everyday, you notice it, too. He is moving better. He is not having quite as many problems with it as he did at the end of last year and preseason this year."
Stoppel combined for 24 points and nine rebounds in the two contests after he missed some time earlier in the year with an ankle injury. Against Southern, he set a career-high in minutes (32) and points (14).
"He is healthy finally," Johnson said.
Women back at home
Junior center Kate Lehman has delivered eight straight double-doubles. Senior Katelyn Edwards has tallied double figures in all but two contests and has at least five rebounds in all but one.
On Monday, the Tigers received plenty of contributions from other players in a 93-66 road victory against Southwest Baptist that split a two-game road trip. Sophomore Chelsea Mason led the team with 20 points.
"Then we have a few X-factors in there," Hobson said. "One of them is Chelsea, and when she is shooting the ball well and playing with confidence, offensively it puts us at a different level. It opens up everything for other players also."
Freshman guard Nikola Kacperska collected a career-high 13 points. Sophomore Taylor Chandler tallied 11. FHSU, still receiving votes in the national poll, moved to 9-2, 3-2 MIAA.
"She is starting to look more for the open 3-pointer because of how teams are playing us, they are sagging a lot," Hobson said of Kacperska. "When she has got a nice, open look from 3, she is really about as good of a 3-point shooter that we have."
Sometimes on the three-day, two-city road trips, FHSU gets tired in the last 10 minutes of the second game. This time, Fort Hays led by seven with 13:07 remaining and then opened up the game.
"Once things start going right and you get momentum going, sometimes that fatigue issue isn't there," Hobson said.
"But the last really 16 or 17 minutes of that game, we played as good as we have played probably all year. Defensively, we were causing all kinds of issues for them. We were rotating real well. We got some steals in the half court, and then it just kind of snowballed."
Fort Hays will play Lindenwood (8-5, 3-3 MIAA) and Lincoln (3-10, 0-6 MIAA) today and Saturday at home. Lindenwood, in its second year in the league, has significantly improved and has a strong recruiting base in the St. Louis area.
"They are here to stay," Hobson said.