Gorillas to Meet Razorbacks Thurs., Open Reg. Season Saturday - KOAM TV 7

Gorillas to Meet Razorbacks Thurs., Open Reg. Season Saturday


The Pittsburg State University men's basketball team will make its season debut Thursday (Nov. 13) when the Gorillas travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to face the University of Arkansas in an exhibition game.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CST) at Sam Walton Arena.

Following Thursday's action, the Gorillas will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., to open regular season play in the Sanford Pentagon Basketball Showcase Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 15-16). The Gorillas will face Augustana (S.D.) College at 8 p.m. Saturday and Northern State University at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Record
Pitt State is coming off an 8-18 campaign during the 2013-14 season. The Gorillas battled injuries throughout the campaign and suffered seven losses in games decided by four or less points.
Pitt State returns six players who started eight or more games in 2013-14.

The Coach
Pittsburg State's Kevin Muff begins his fifth 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 56-55 (.505) record in his tenure with the Gorillas.  This will be his first meeting against all three foes.

Series History
Pitt State has faced Arkansas 24 times between 1930 and 1970, compiling an 9-15 record against the Razorbacks.  Arkansas posted a 107-82 victory in the last meeting on Dec. 10, 1970. The Gorillas are 3-12 against the Razorbacks at Fayetteville.

Pitt State will meet both Augustana and Northern State for the first time in program history this weekend.

Scouting the Gorillas
Pitt State returns six players who started eight or more games during the 2013-14 campaign, including a third-team All-MIAA selection in senior guard Devon Branch.

Branch (6-6, 180) started 23 games in his first season in the Pitt State program, averaging 20.7 points per game. He ranked third in the MIAA in scoring and the Aberdeen, Md., native is the MIAA's top returning scorer.
Branch converted 164 of 325 shots from the floor, making 50.5 percent of his attempts last year. He also shot 74.5 percent from the free throw line, making 137 of 184 charity shots. H alsoe averaged a team-leading 5.3 rebounds per game and dished out 70 assists (3.0 apg).

Branch scored 20 or more points 14 times on the season and 30+ points on three occasions, including a season-best 34 points in the regular season finale against Washburn University on Mar. 1.

Additionally, Branch turned in big performances in a pair of exhibition games against the University of Kansas and Kansas State University last year. He scored a game-high 27 points in a 97-57 loss to the Jayhawks on Oct. 29 then followed that up with a game-high 30 points and 16 rebounds in a 75-54 loss to the Wildcats on Nov. 1.

Branch transferred to Pitt State in January 2013, after one semester at the University of Oregon.  He spent two seasons at Cloud County Community College, where he averaged 22.0 points and earned first-team All-Jayhawk Conference honors as a sophomore.

Junior guard Jake Bullard also returns for his third year in the Pitt State program.  Bullard (6-6, 190) started all 26 games for the Gorillas in 2013-14, averaging 14.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and a team-leading 4.2 assists per
game. The Cleora, Okla., native shot 46.0 percent from the field (115 of 250) and made 31 3-pointers (31 of 82, .378) on the year.

Bullard ranked sixth in the MIAA in assists last season. He has scored 546 points in 49 career games (11.1 ppg).

Sophomore forward Trevor Gregory also started 23 of 26 games as a true freshman for the Gorillas last season.  Gregory (6-7, 235) contributed 5.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes of action, while shooting a team-leading 62.3 percent (43 of 69) from the field.

The Lee's Summit, Mo., native scored a season-best 16 points against Bethany College on Nov. 22.

Sophomore guard Josiah Gustafson returns after starting 16 of 26 games during his freshman campaign.  Gustafson (6-6, 190) averaged 8.1 points, while shooting 41.0 percent from the floor (71 of 173).
The Omaha, Neb., native also converted 80.6 percent of his free throw attempts (54 of 67) and scored in double figures 10 times on the year.

Gustafson was Nebraska's Gatorade Player of the Year at Millard North High School his senior season.

Senior guard Sam Pugh is back for his fourth season in the Pitt State program. Pugh (6-1, 180) started eight of 18 games played, averaging 10.7 points and 2.9 assists per game. He was sidelined eight games with a concussion.

The Branson, Mo., native converted 43 of 83 3-point field goals on the season, shooting 51.8 percent from behind the arc.  He would have led the MIAA in 3-point percentage but did not meet the 75% games played requirement to qualify for a ranking.

Senior guard/forward Connor Kjer averaged 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while starting 11 of 25 games played last season. Kjer (6-6, 218) averaged 11.3 points per game in Pitt State's final six contests.
The La Habra, Calif., native shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range, making 35 of 89 long-range shots.

Junior forward Lamine Dieng is back for his second season with the Gorillas. Dieng (6-8, 240) exercised a medical redshirt for a knee injury in 2013-14, after transferring from Vincennes (Ind.) University. The Thies, Senegal native suffered another injury during pre-season and he's expected to be out of the lineup until December.

As a team, Pitt State shot 46.7 percent from the field in 2013-14 while its opponents converted 45.4 percent of their shots.  The Gorillas averaged 78.5 points per game.
Pitt State's 2014-15 recruiting class includes one transfer and three incoming freshmen.

Junior guard Javis Flynn transferred to Pitt State from Pratt Community College. Flynn (5-10, 170) averaged eight points and nine assists per game for the Beavers last season. The Watonga, Okla., native was a second-team All-Jayhawk Conference pick.

Freshman guard Dakota Jones joined the Gorillas from Warrensburg (Mo.) High School. Jones (5-10, 165) was a two-time first-team Missouri Class 4A All-State performer for the Tigers. He averaged 22 points per game his senior season.

Pitt State Probable Starters
    F    5    Devon Branch, 6-6, 180, Sr., Aberdeen, Md.
    F    32    Trevor Gregory, 6-7, 235, So., Lee's Summit, Mo.
    G    1    Jake Bullard, 6-6, 190, Jr., Cleora, Okla.
    G    3    Javis Flynn, 5-10, 170, Jr., Watonga, Okla.
    G    21    Sam Pugh, 6-1, 180, Sr., Branson, Mo.
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