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Gorillas Open Road Swing Against Lopers, Tigers - KOAM TV 7

Gorillas Open Road Swing Against Lopers, Tigers

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Press Release PSU: 

The Pittsburg State University men's basketball team begins a four-game road swing with a pair of MIAA games this week against Nebraska-Kearney Thursday (Feb. 13) and Fort Hays State Saturday (Feb.15).

Thursday's tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (CST) at the Health & Sports Center in Kearney, Neb., while Saturday's contest inside Gross Memorial Coliseum will begin at 4 p.m. in Hays, Kan.

The Records
Pitt State enters the week 7-13 overall and 3-10 in MIAA action.  The Gorillas dropped a pair of home games last week: PSU lost to Southwest Baptist, 89-74, Tuesday (Feb. 4) before falling to Central Oklahoma, 80-72, Saturday (Feb. 8).

Nebraska-Kearney is 11-10 overall and 7-7 in MIAA play.  The Lopers are on a six-game winning streak that began when they defeated Pitt State, 82-80, in Pittsburg on Jan. 22. In its most recent action, UNK defeated Fort Hays State, 90-83, last Wednesday (Feb. 5) and Washburn, 90-84, Saturday (Feb. 8).  

Fort Hays State is 19-4 overall and 10-4 in the MIAA action. The Tigers have won 11 of their last 12 games, including three contests that went to overtime. FHSU fell to Nebraska-Kearney last Wednesday, before defeating Emporia State, 65-59, in Emporia, Kan., Saturday (Feb. 8).

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 55-50 (.524) record in his short tenure with the Gorillas.  This will be his third meeting with UNK. He is 1-1 against the Lopers. This will be Muff's seventh meeting against Fort Hays State. He is 1-5 vs the Tigers.

Tom Kropp is in his 24th year as head coach at Nebraska-Kearney. Kropp (Nebraska-Kearney, '75) has notched a 460-232 (.665) mark at UNK. He is 1-2 vs. Pitt State.

Mark Johnson is in his 13th year as head coach of  Fort Hays State. Johnson, (Pittsburg State, '93) has compiled a 264-110 (.707) record while leading the Tigers. He is 11-3 all-time against his alma mater.

Series History
Pitt State and Nebraska-Kearney will meet for the 33rd time Thursday. UNK holds a decisive 25-7 advantage in the series, but Pitt State has won four of the last six meetings against the Lopers dating back to the 1988 season. UNK defeated Pitt State, 82-80, earlier this season on Jan. 22, in Pittsburg.

Saturday's action will mark the 154th all-time meeting between the Gorillas and the Tigers. FHSU holds an 82-71 advantage in the series that dates back to 1917, and the Tigers have won 13 of the last 16 meetings.

The Tigers defeated PSU 78-75 in Pittsburg on Jan. 25., in Pittsburg.

Scouting the Gorillas
Pitt State enters this week's action with three players averaging in double figures on the season: junior guard Devon Branch (20.9 ppg), sophomore guard Jake Bullard (14.3 ppg) and senior guard Sam Pugh (10.9 ppg).

Branch, who currently ranks second 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 32 points against Southwest Baptist on Feb. 4. He also tallied five rebounds and three assists in the losing effort.

On the season, Branch is shooting 51.9 (121-for-233) from the field while also ranking second on  the team lead with 4.9 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 (22nd) 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.  Last week he tallied 16 points and five rebounds against Northeastern State and notched 14 points, four assists and four rebounds against Central Oklahoma.

Bullard is shooting 48.6 percent from the floor (86-for-177), including 38.6 percent from 3-point range (22-for-57). He is also leads the team with 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as well.

Pugh (6-0, 180) is averaging 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and a team-leading 1.3 steals per game. He leads the MIAA in 3-point percentage at 53.4 (39-for-73).

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 13th in the MIAA in steals and 14th in assists. He missed the last three games due to injury.

Freshman guard Josiah Gustafson is averaging just below double digits at 8.7 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.

Senior guard Ethan Cordray (6.1 ppg), junior forward Connor Kjer (5.7 ppg) and freshman forward Trevor Gregory (5.1 ppg) all chip in more than five points a game. Cordray has converted 34 of 96 3-point field goals (.354).Kjer narrowly missed a double-double with a 14 point, nine rebound effort against SBU on Feb. 4. Gregory is also averaging 4.4 rebounds per contest and shooting a team-high 64.0 percent from the floor (32-for-50).

As a team, the Gorillas are shooting 47.0 percent from the field (522-1111)and 36.0 percent from 3-point range (140-389). Pitt State also is shooting 73.5 percent from the free throw line (382-520).

The Gorillas' opponents have converted 44.4 percent of their shots from the floor (520-1172), including 35.3 percent (173-490) from beyond the arc. PSU's opponents are shooting 70.3 percent from the charity stripe (391-556).

Scouting the Lopers
UNK has five players averaging in double figures: sophomore forward Connor Beranek (18.2 ppg), sophomore forward Ethan Brozek (15.6 pgg), senior forward Mike Dentlinger (14.6 ppg), junior forward Tyler Shields (11.0 ppg) and junior guard Davion Pearson (10.9 ppg).

Beranek, who currently ranks fifth in the MIAA in scoring, also averages a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game to rank seventh in the conference. He also leads the Tigers with 20 blocks. Brozek is currently shooting 55.4 percent from the field (72-130), while also averaging 6.3 rpg.

As a team, UNK averages 80.5 points and shoot 49.2 percent from the field (581-1182), 35.7 percent from the 3-point line (139-389) and 72.0 percent from the free throw line (390-542). The Tigers generate 18.6 points per game from the free throw line.

UNK's opponents are averaging 80.9 points and shooting 48.8 percent from the field (588-1205).

Scouting the Tigers
Fort Hays State has three players averaging in double figures: sophomore guard Craig Nicholson (18.1 ppg) ,senior forward Dwayne Brunson (17.6 ppg) and  senior guard Carson Konrade (13.5 ppg). Additionally, junior guard James Fleming (9.1 ppg) and junior guard Tomislav Gabric (8.5 ppg) are averaging just below 10 ppg.

Nicholson, who currently ranks sixth in the conference in scoring, also  leads the Tigers with 7.8 apg, ranking first in the MIAA. He also leads the team and ranks second in the conference with 45 steals on the year. Brunson ranks second in blocked shots (49), third in rebounding (8.0 rpg) and seventh in scoring in the MIAA.

As a team, the Tigers average 85.2 points and shoot 48.7 percent from the field (668-1371), 40.2 percent from the 3-point line (163-405) and 78.5 percent from the free throw line (461-587). FHSU ranks first in the MIAA in free throw percentage (81.5), second in three-point percentage (.402) and third in scoring offense (85.2 ppg).

Fort Hays State's opponents are averaging 74.8 points and shooting 42.0 percent from the field (556-1324). FHSU's opponents have made 73.6 percent of their free throw attempts (426-579).

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    32    Ethan Brozek, 6-7, 215, So., Norfolk, 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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