By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
After a three-game road swing, Pittsburg State makes a rare home basketball appearance today against Fort Hays State.
Tipoff is 1:30 p.m. for the women’s matchup of nationally ranked teams at John Lance Arena, and the men’s game will start at approximately 3:30.
PSU’s men are looking to bounce back from two seven-point losses — 80-73 at Central Missouri one week ago and 87-80 at Missouri Southern on Wednesday night.
“It was about stepping up to the challenge,” Gorillas coach Kevin Muff said after the MSSU game. “We have some guys right now on our team who aren’t playing to their potential. I’m a believer that you’re going to go through stretches where you’re not going to play very well. ... You’re going to have some up and down games, but give us your best effort. Give us what you’re capable of doing, be the best player you can be.
“And it’s time for some of our other players on the team who do give everything they have every time out ... it’s time for them to start challenging those guys who aren’t stepping up. We have a good team. I’m a firm believer we’re a good team, and I’m not down on these guys at all. I’m down on our level of play right now and where I know where we can be and where we should be and where we’re going to get to. This is where we are right now.”
The Gorillas (11-4, 4-3 MIAA) are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the standings. Fort Hays State (10-4, 4-2) is part of a three-way tie for second after Wednesday night’s 74-59 home victory over Southwest Baptist.
Junior forward Dwayne Brunson averages 15.3 points to lead four Tigers in double figures, and he’s first in the conference in blocked shots (2.3 per game) and second in rebounds (8.3).
“Hays is very good and playing extremely well right now,” Muff said. “They are kind of a new team. They have a good freshman point guard who will be a good test for us. And I haven’t beaten since I’ve been here — I’m 0-4 against them. We need to step up. We only play them once, so it’s going to be a big game and it’s at home.”
Kaleb Porter leads the Gorillas at 14.5 points, but he had only two points on 1-of-11 shooting in the last game. Rico Pierrrevilus led PSU with 21 points and 12 rebounds at Missouri Southern.
The women’s game features the MIAA’s top two scorers — sophomores Lizzy Jeronimus of Pittsburg State (19.1) and Kate Lehman of Fort Hays State (17.2).
Jeronimus, despite having the flu, scored 24 in the Gorillas’ 66-63 victory at Missouri Southern on Wednesday night — their fourth win in five games since the Christmas break.
“I think Lizzy is better because she’s going right now and with confidence,” Gorillas coach Lane Lord said. “I think the thing that makes her better is her mental toughness.”
The No. 24 Gorillas shot 53 percent (25-of-47) against MSSU — their first game over 50 percent since they hit 63 percent (41-of-65) in a season-opening 97-51 victory over Southwest Minnesota State. The Gorillas also outrebounded the Lions 35-24 to help overcome 20 turnovers.
“We did a great job on the boards,” Lord said. “We turned it over way too much, but I thought a lot of that had to do with the fact I thought they pressured well.”
The Gorillas (11-4, 5-2 MIAA) are in a four-way tie for third place while the No. 21 Tigers (11-3, 3-3) share eighth place. The Tigers won their first 10 games, then lost three straight before Wednesday night’s 64-55 home victory over Southwest Baptist.