Tigers roll past Central Christian
By CONOR NICHOLL
A couple of weeks ago, Fort Hays State University senior forward Dwayne Brunson and the Tigers were in the back gyms for practice at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Brunson hurt his knee, an injury that has limited him in practice.
"It's a gym we all hate, because the floor is bad," he said. "I went up for a rebound and came down."
This week, Brunson only practiced Friday, but tallied 14 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes in Saturday's 95-50 non-conference victory against NAIA Central Christian College at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to play today," he said. "I was not going to miss the game for myself and for my team."
After two road overtime losses to open MIAA play last weekend, the Tigers, receiving votes in the NCAA Division II national poll, moved to 8-2. Central Christian used the game as an exhibition and remained at 11-1. Fort Hays led 49-21 at halftime and everyone on the roster played at least nine minutes.
"I was happy for our guys," coach Mark Johnson said. "I thought they did a good job. We came out, and we needed to play like a team that had come off of two straight losses. I think we did that."
"The nice thing that you like to see when you get those types of leads in those games, is it can get really sloppy and really ugly, and I don't think it really ever did," he added.
Central Christian's 1-3-1 zone gave Drury (Mo.) University, the defending national champions and ranked No. 3 nationally, some problems in a 92-63 loss last Saturday. FHSU, though, shot 60 percent for the game, moved the ball well and hit nine 3s, including 7 of 14 in the first half. Senior guard Carson Konrade led the Tigers with 19 points.
"Our guys did a good job attacking and finding the weak spots," Johnson said.
Fort Hays next plays host to Northwest Missouri State University in a huge home MIAA contest at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Brunson favored the knee a little in warmups, but didn't wear a brace. He expects to be "100 percent" for the game.
"Just a little fluid got in there where it shouldn't have been and messed with the kneecap a little bit, moving from side to side," he said.
Johnson didn't want Brunson, a returning first team all-MIAA player, to miss Saturday's game and have more time off. Brunson didn't practice before last week's road trip either.
"You can't take two weeks off of doing nothing, and then go be an effective player against good competition," Johnson said. "We felt like we needed to get him out there and get him playing. We've got to monitor what we do this week, but he needs to get in some practices. Kind of balance it the best we can where he is still game sharp."