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Gorillas Return Home to Face Lopers, Tigers - KOAM TV 7

Gorillas Return Home to Face Lopers, Tigers

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Press Release PSU:

The Pittsburg State University men's basketball team will return to John Lance Arena for a pair of MIAA games against the University Nebraska-Kearney Wednesday (Jan. 22) and Fort Hays State University Saturday (Jan. 25).

Wednesday's tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (CST), while Saturday's action will begin at 3:30 p.m.

The Records
Pitt State enters the week 6-8 overall and 2-5 in MIAA action.  The Gorillas  dropped a pair of road games last week, falling 83-75 Wednesday (Jan. 15) to Emporia State and 83-80 to Washburn Saturday (Jan. 18).

Nebraska-Kearney is 5-10 overall and 2-7 in MIAA play.  The Lopers have dropped five of their last six games, including a 96-82 decision to Central Oklahoma in the team's last action on Jan. 18.

Fort Hays State is 14-3 overall and 6-3 in the MIAA action heading into a Thursday match-up with South Dakota Mines. The Tigers have won six straight contests with four of those wins coming on the road. FHSU defeated Northeastern State, 79-65, last Saturday (Jan. 18) at Tahlequah, Okla.

The Coaches
Pittsburg State's Kevin Muff is in his fourth season leading the Gorillas. Muff (Kansas State, '86) became the Gorillas' 14th all-time head coach on Apr. 5, 2010, after spending 12 seasons at Cloud County Community College, where he helped the Thunderbirds to an average of 21 wins in each of the last five seasons.

He has a 54-45 (.545) record in his short tenure with the Gorillas.  This will be his second meeting with UNK. He is 1-0 against the Lopers. This will be Muff's sixth meeting against Fort Hays State. He is 1-4 vs the Tigers.

Tom Kropp is in his 24th year as head coach at Nebraska-Kearney. Kropp (Nebraska-Kearney, '75) has notched a 454-232 (.662) mark at UNK. He is 0-2 vs. Pitt State.

Mark Johnson is in his 13th year as head coach of  Fort Hays State. Johnson, (Pittsburg State, '93) has compiled a 260-109 (.705) record while leading the Tigers. He is 10-3 all-time against his alma mater.

Series History
Pitt State and Nebraska-Kearney will meet for the 32nd time Wednesday.UNK holds a decisive 24-7 advantage in the series, but Pitt State has won four of the last five meetings against the Lopers dating back to the 1988 season. The Gorillas defeated UNK, 76-62, the last time the two teams met on Jan. 3, 2013. in Pittsburg.

Saturday's action will mark the 153rd all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the Tigers. FHSU holds an 81-71 advantage in the series that dates back to 1917, and the Tigers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings.

The Gorillas ended the Tigers eight-game winning streak in the series last season with a 72-69 victory in Pittsburg on Jan. 13, 2013.

Scouting the Gorillas
Pitt State enters this week's action with three players averaging in double figures on the season: junior guard Devon Branch (19.8 ppg), sophomore guard Jake Bullard (14.2 ppg) and senior guard Sam Pugh (10.6 ppg).

Branch, who currently ranks third in the MIAA in scoring, scored 20 points in the Gorillas season opener against Newman on Nov. 13 before exiting the game with a knee injury. He missed three games, before returning to the Pitt State lineup Nov. 22. The Aberdeen, Md., native tallied a season-high 31 points against Washburn on Jan. 18.

On the season, Branch is shooting 53.5 (76-for-142) from the field while also averaging a team-high 5.0 rebounds per contest.

Branch transferred to Pitt State last January from the University of Oregon. He did not play for the Ducks, but he averaged 22 points per game as a sophomore at Cloud County Community College in 2011, leading the Jayhawk Conference in scoring.

Branch posted 30 points and 16 rebounds in the Gorillas' exhibition loss to Kansas State on Nov. 1. He also scored a game-high 27 points on Oct. 29 in an exhibition loss to the University of Kansas.

Bullard (6-5, 180) ranks among the MIAA leaders in scoring (18th) and assists (seventh, 4.3 apg) on the season.

The Cleora, Okla., native posted a double-double with 15 points and a career high 10 assists against Eastern New Mexico (Nov. 29). He just missed posting a triple double against West Texas A&M on Dec. 18 with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against the Buffs.

Bullard is shooting 51.8 percent from the floor (59-for-114), including 44.4 percent from 3-point range (12-for-27). He is averaging a team-leadign 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as well.

Pugh (6-0, 180) is averaging 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and a team-leading 1.4 steals per game. He leads the team and ranks second in the MIAA in 3-point percentage at 52.4 (33-for-63).

The Branson, Mo., native tallied 22 points against Eastern New Mexico and 12 points with a career-best 10 dimes against Bethany, recording his first career double-double.

Pugh ranks 10th in the MIAA in assists and 11th in the league in steals.

Freshman guard Josiah Gustafson is averaging just below double digits at 9.5 points per game. The Omaha, Neb., native tallied a team-high 16 points and five rebounds against NW Missouri State on Dec. 5. He tallied 13 points and three rebounds against Emporia State on Jan. 15.

Junior forward Alex Williams (6.2 ppg), senior guard Ethan Cordray (6.1 ppg) and freshman forward Trevor Gregory (5.7 ppg) all chip in more than five points a game. Gregory is also averaging 4.1 rebounds per contest and shooting a team-high 62.5 percent from the floor (25-for-40). Cordray has converted 23 of 61 3-point field goals (.377).

As a team, the Gorillas are shooting 48.3 percent from the field (375-776)and 36.2 percent from 3-point range (92-254). Pitt State also is shooting 72.7 percent from the free throw line (277-381).

The Gorillas' opponents have converted 43.9 percent of their shots from the floor (363-826), including 35.0 percent (114-326) from beyond the arc. PSU's opponents are shooting 71.3 percent from the charity stripe (298-418).

Scouting the Lopers
UNK has four players averaging in double figures: sophomore forward Connor Beranek (18.1 ppg), senior forward Mike Dentlinger (13.3 ppg), junior forward Tyler Shields (13.3 ppg) and junior guard Davion Pearson (11.5 ppg).

Beranek, who currently ranks fourth in the MIAA in scoring, also averages 6.7 rebounds per game to rank seventh in the conference. He also leads the Tigers with 14 blocks. Dentlinger is currently shooting 67.9 percent from the field (53-78), while also averaging 5.2 rpg.

As a team, UNK averages 79.6 points and shoot 48.8 percent from the field (420-860), 35.2 percent from the 3-point line (102-290) and 69.4 percent from the free throw line (252-363). The Tigers generate 16.8 points per game from the free throw line.

UNK's opponents are averaging 82.6 points and shooting 50.1 percent from the field (422-842).

Scouting the Tigers
Fort Hays State has three players averaging in double figures: senior forward Dwayne Brunson (17.7 ppg), sophomore guard Craig Nicholson (16.9 ppg) and  senior guard Carson Konrade (14.1 ppg). Additionally, junior guard Tomislav Gabric (9.5 ppg) and junior guard James Fleming (8.5 ppg).

Brunson also leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game and 39 blocks on the season. Nicholson leads the Tigers with 8.4 apg, ranking first in the MIAA. He also leads the team with 37 steals on the year. Konrade has converted 51.1 percent of his shots from three-point territory (48-94).

As a team, the Tigers average 86.1 points and shoot 49.4 percent from the field (506-1024), 39.7 percent from the 3-point line (117-295) and 81.5 percent from the free throw line (335-411). FHSU ranks first in the MIAA in scoring offense (86.1 ppg), free throw percentage (81.5) and steals (8.4).

Fort Hays State's opponents are averaging 73.5 points and shooting 41.0 percent from the field (403-982). FHSU's opponents have made 73.3 percent of their free throw attempts (310-423).

Pitt State Probable Starters
    F    24    Terrell Eaddy, 6-5, 205, Sr., Bronx, N.Y.
    F    32    Trevor Gregory, 6-7, 235, Fr., Lee's Summit, Mo.
    G    1    Jake Bullard, 6-5, 190, So., Cleora, Okla.
    G    2    Ethan Cordray, 6-0, 185, Sr., Coffeyville, Kan.
    G    5    Devon Branch, 6-6, 180, Jr., Aberdeen, Md.

Nebraska-Kearney Probable Starters
    F    42    Tyler Shields, 6-4, 200, Jr., Kearney, Neb.
    F    44    Connor Beranek, 6-6, 190, So., Ravenna, Neb.
    F    54    Mike Dentlinger, 6-6, 205, Sr., Omaha, Neb.
    G    5    Davion Pearson, 5-11, 175, Jr., Pacific Palisades, Calif.
    G    24    Kevin Dineen, 6-1, 180, Fr., Omaha, Neb.

Fort Hays State Probable Starters
    F    21    Jake Stoppel, 6-5, 210, So. Wilson, Kan.
    F    31    Dwayne Brunson, 6-7, 220, Sr., Queens, N.Y.
    G    3    Craig Nicholson, 5-8, 160, So., Wichita, Kan.
    G    4    Carson Konrade, 6-3, 170, Sr., Spearville, Kan.
    G    5    Tomislav Gabric, 6-6, 185, Jr., Dubrovnik, Croatia

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