Lopers Knock Off Tigers in NCAA Tournament Opening Round

FHSU Sports Information Department

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. ā€“ Fort Hays State saw its season come to a close on Saturday evening (Mar. 12) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers fell to conference rival Nebraska-Kearney by a score of 79-67, ending their season at 20-11 overall.

The Lopers had four players take all but one shot in the game and all four finished in double figures scoring. Connor Beranek, one of the MIAA’s top scorers, was too much for the Tigers as he scored 37 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the field. He did the majority of his damage at the free-throw line, where he went 15-of-19. He added 14 rebounds for a double-double. Trey Lansman and Ty Danielson each had 16, while Ethan Brozek added 10. The four combined shot 50 percent from the field and the team finished at 49 percent with the only other shot attempt in the game coming from point guard Lane Rohrich.

After UNK scored the opening basket of the game, FHSU went on a 7-0 run to lead by five early. But the Lopers stormed back with a 20-7 run to take the lead for good, building an eight point lead. UNK used a 10-0 burst in that run to take control. The Lopers eventually led by six at halftime as FHSU scored the final two buckets of the half.

The Tigers got the ball first out of halftime, but were unable to convert a couple of opportunities early and UNK pushed its lead back to double figures at the 16:09 mark.

Fort Hays State finally went on a burst, getting a 7-0 run to cut the UNK lead to three with 9:45 to go in the game. But UNK had the answer as Lansman buried a three to push the lead back to six. FHSU chipped the lead down to four on three straight possessions, but the Lopers countered with two points each time. UNK eventually got the lead back out to 10 with 4:38 to go and it was too much for the Tigers to overcome.

Free-throw shooting was a trouble area for the Tigers throughout the night as they went just 15-of-25 at the line. The Tigers hit just 3-of-9 attempts in the first half. FHSU finished at 40.7 percent overall for the game and just 33.3 percent beyond the 3-point line. The Lopers were rock-solid at the free-throw line, where they went 25-of-29 (86.2 percent).

Craig Nicholson finished out his amazing career as a Tiger with 19 points and a team-high four assists. Nicholson is now the all-time record holder at Fort Hays State for assists per game in a career, averaging 6.3 per game in his 100 career games played as a Tiger. With 19 points, he finished with 1,449 points in his career, sixth on the all-time list and third most by a player during the NCAA Division II era at the school. He finished with 628 assists, second-most in school history and most by a player in FHSU’s NCAA history. He also owns the school record for free-throws made in a career with 481. His .803 career shooting percentage at the free-throw line ranks sixth in school history. He ranks second all-time in steals with 161.

Jake Stoppel finished with 16 points and Dom Samac had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, each closing their careers as Tigers. Kenny Enoch added seven points.

The Tigers made their seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Mark Johnson and 13th NCAA Tournament Appearance overall. The Tigers reached 20 wins in a season for the ninth time under coach Johnson, adding to the school record in that category.

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