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Tigers fall at Washburn




TOPEKA -- Down two players, one for the rest of the season. A technical foul, the first of the year, for Tiger coach Mark Johnson. Fifth road game in the last six contests. One of the best games of Washburn University junior guard Will McNeill's career.

Multiple negatives produced a loss, 79-67, for the Fort Hays State University men's basketball team on Saturday afternoon against the Ichabods at Lee Arena.

Junior forward Markus Yarbrough and junior guard Tyrone Phillips, both first-year junior college transfers, didn't make the trip to Washburn. Yarbrough, who averaged 5.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and shot a team-high 56.7 percent from the field, served a one-game suspension earlier this year for an off-the court incident. He has played little in recent games.

Phillips, the team's third-leading scorer at 10.9 points per game, had received two technical fouls this year.

The second one occurred Monday at Missouri Western State University. After the technical, Johnson benched Phillips for the rest of the game.

Phillips will not play again for the Tigers, while Yarbrough's status is uncertain.

"Tyrone, we mutually agreed to move on," coach Mark Johnson said. "I think it just wasn't a fit for him and for us and we wish him luck in his future endeavors. Markus, right now, we are going to see what we are going to do. We need guys buying into what we are doing and work hard every day.

"It's not one incident," Johnson added, referring to Phillips. "We run our program a certain way and it's a fit for some guys and not a fit for others. No hard feelings. We wish him a lot of luck in his future."

The Tigers, receiving votes in the NCAA Division II national rankings, slipped to 14-6 overall, 8-6 MIAA. Fort Hays ended its six-game run that featured five road contests, including a season-high three straight away from Hays. The Tigers, who have had just one home game since Jan. 9, went 4-2 in the stretch.

Washburn won for the third straight contest and for the sixth time in seven games, and improved to 16-6 overall, 10-4 in the conference. The Ichabods are 8-1 at home this season.

"Road games in this conference are always tough no matter if you are playing Missouri Western, who is in last place or Washburn, who is fighting for the top," senior guard Sean Dreiling said.

Fort Hays, which also lost 61-45 to Washburn on Dec. 7 in Hays, dropped two straight to the Ichabods for the first time in the 11-year Johnson era. The last time FHSU lost back-to-back to Washburn came on Nov. 28, 1998 and Dec. 1, 1999.

"Their length and size and physicalness really gives us a problem," Johnson said.

McNeill, the MIAA's second-leading scorer at 19.5 points per contest, went 6-of-6 in the first half for 17 points. He finished with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting, his 16th 20-point game of his career and 11th this season. McNeill finished three points off his career-high set Nov. 12 versus Arkansas-Fort Smith.

He helped Washburn shoot 57 percent in the first half and 53.3 percent for the game. As well, the Ichabods went 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range. Johnson picked up his technical with 16:31 left in the contest and the Ichabods up 48-35. The Ichabods eventually pushed it to 18 points with 11:49 remaining.

"Tough matchup," Dreiling said. "They are bigger than us at every position. But that's no excuse. They out-physicaled us. ... William McNeill is a good player and Washburn played well tonight."

Fort Hays shot 40 percent for the game against an Ichabod defense that had allowed 61 points a game. Juniors Omar McDade and Lance Russell led the Tigers with 16 points.

"Offensively, we played well enough to win," Johnson said.

Fort Hays will start a two-game homestand Wednesday against Truman State (Mo.) University.

Sport Date Opponent Score
2/18 SW Baptist L 66-53
12/1 Oklahoma - Panhandle L 66-60 (OT)