The Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team improved their winning streak to 10 games after two overtime wins last week.
Last Thursday the Tigers defeated Emporia State 99-92 in double overtime and followed that with an 87-85 victory over Washburn on Saturday.
The two wins moved the Tigers to 18-3 on the season and 9-3 in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The Tigers began the week fourth in the MIAA standings and No. 24 in the nation. After the two wins the Tigers sit in a three-way tie for second in the conference and moved to No. 23 in the nation.
Almost 3,000 people attended the Emporia State game last Thursday and while they may have paid for a full seat they only needed the edge. Both teams came in 7-3 in conference play and it was a struggle for one team to establish dominance in this in-state rivalry game.
The Hornets would establish a four-point lead by half, leading 37-33. Three Hornets scored in double digits in the first half, only one other Emporia player scored before intermission, he scored one point.
The Tigers had eight players score in the first half, double that of Emporia. The Tigers’ bench outscored the Hornets’ bench 25-7 throughout the game, exploiting Emporia’s lack of depth.
It was the clutch performance by sophomore Craig Nicholson, Wichita, and the low-post dominance by senior, Dwayne Brunson, Queens N.Y., that would give the Tigers the edge. Nicholson and Brunson combined for 60 of the Tigers’ 99 points.
Nicholson finished with a career-high 36 points on the night, including the Tigers’ last eight points of regulation and the go-ahead layup to send the game into the first overtime.
In the first overtime an assist from Nicholson to Brunson would tie the game with 1:41 remaining. A good post-play by Brunson would send him to the free-throw line for two shots, down by two in the final seconds. Brunson would make both free-throws sending the game into double overtime. He finished the game with 24 points and eight rebounds.
Also finishing in double-digits was junior Achoki Moikobu Seattle, Wash., he finished with 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arch.
It was all Tigers after that. They shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and held the Hornets to 3-of-7. The Tigers also shot 8-of-9 from the charity stripe, outscoring Emporia 18-11 in the final overtime. The final seven-point lead was the largest lead of the night for the Tigers.
A 14-point halftime advantage wasn’t enough for the Tigers as the Ichabods clawed back in the second half as rivalry week continued with a Saturday matchup against Washburn.
Nicholson again led the Tigers in scoring with 23 points, including seven in the second half. He, along with senior Carson Kondrade, Spearville, played all 20 minutes of the second half. Konrade finished with 13 points and four rebounds.
Brunson was second on the team with 19 points. He also added six rebounds and two blocked shots.
It was a big night for junior James Fleming, Hanover Park, Ill., who finished with 17 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field including 4-of-4 from behind the arch. He also added four rebounds.
Emporia’s Alex North scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half including a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime. North was the only player to finish with a double-double in the contest also grabbing 12 rebounds.
It was Brunson who would hit the clutch in overtime with .3 seconds left to put the Tigers up by two and seal the victory.
The Tigers completed a 10-game winning streak, the best in the MIAA. The Tigers travel to Nebraska-Kearney on Wednesday who is on a streak of their own winning their last four contest. The Lopers are 10-9 on the season and 5-7 in the conference.