WARRENSBURG - Another promising start by the Central Missouri Mules fizzled out again, this time ending in a 65-50 loss to Fort Hays State on Thursday, Feb. 13.
“A tough last 31 minutes,” Central Missouri coach Doug Karleskint said.
The Mules doubled up Fort Hays in the opening six minutes, 24 seconds, getting six points from Gaven Pinkley and four points from Matt Wilkinson to lead 14-7.
Wilkinson, who finished with a team-high 16 points, knocked down a 3-pointer at the 9:12 mark to keep UCM’s lead at seven, 19-12, after the Tigers got within two.
“He made it a point to get in the paint and go off two feet and get to the free throw line,” Karleskint said. “I thought he was one of the lone bright spots of the night and played like a senior.”
Central Missouri then proceeded to go the next 7:49 without a basket.
“Did not handle adversity at all tonight and that’s what I am disappointed in,” Karleskint said.
Fort Hays used the drought to overtake the Mules for good with a 10-0 run. DeAndre Sorrells briefly tied the game with a 3-pointer at 22-22, ending a stretch of six turnovers and three missed shots.
“When we got some good looks, we couldn’t knock them down and I thought that really affected us mentally,” Karleskint said. “I thought it really affected our confidence, our energy on the defensive end.”
The Mules stayed within reach going into halftime down two, 27-25.
Fort Hays came out of the break with a 9-0 run, staking out a 38-27 lead.
Central Missouri trimmed the deficit down to five at the midway point of the second half, 45-40, only for Fort Hays to answer with three straight 3-pointers, opening back up a double-digit lead, 54-42.
The Tigers went 7 of 12 from deep in the second half, with 21 of their 38 second half points accounting from the deep ball.
“It all starts with sitting down and being tougher than the guy in front of you, winning the one on one battle of guarding the basketball and we did not do a very good job of that,” Karleskint said.
UCM got the deficit down to single digits only once after the barrage of three’s from Fort Hays at 54-46 only for the Tigers to knock down another deep ball and end the comeback threat with 5:13 remaining.
Central Missouri finished 16 of 47 from the field and 4 of 14 from behind the three-point line. The Mules did not break double-digit made baskets in either half during the loss.
“I thought as a collective whole, I thought this week was probably our best week of practice. We got up a ton of shots and it really hurts that we shot 32 percent just as far as we know what we put into the week and to have a performance like that, that hurts,” Karleskint said.
Pinkley was the only other Mule in double-figures with 12 points.
Central Missouri hosts Nebraska-Kearney at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15.