Larry Gipson noted long bus trips as something he won’t miss when he dives headlong into retirement. Yet, before he calls it career at the end of this basketball season, he’s on Northeastern State’s longest road trip of the season.
And it has the potential to get even longer.
After the NSU men were blasted, 84-65, by Nebraska Kearney on Wednesday night, the RiverHawks head to Hays, Kan., to take on Fort Hays State in a must-win game if the RiverHawks have any chance of cutting their current road trip short.
If NSU can’t beat Fort Hays State (22-5, 13-5 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) on Friday night, the odds are high that NSU will head back to Kearney, Neb., for a first-round game in the MIAA tournament.
The means the RiverHawks — who left for their two-game swing at Kearney and Fort Hays State on Tuesday — wouldn’t return to Tahlequah until Wednesday.
If NSU (13-12, 8-10) is to host a first-round game in the MIAA Championship tournament, it’ll need to beat Fort Hays State and hope that Kearney and Washburn lose. Nebraska Kearney will host Central Oklahoma on Friday, and Washburn will be on the road at Pittsburg State.
The situation for the NSU women to host a game in the MIAA tournament is much simpler. The RiverHawks must win at Fort Hays State and Northwest Missouri State has to lose at Central Missouri.
Unfortunately for the NSU women, they are working on a seven-game losing streak on the road — the RiverHawks’ longest such losing streak away from home since the 1998-1999 season.
The RiverHawks had a victory in their grasps on Wednesday night against Nebraska Kearney but managed to a let a 61-58 game get away.
“Our kids played hard enough to win,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “It was a good game. We just made too many mistakes.”
With one game left in the regular season, Gipson knows what’s at stake.
“We have to get our focus towards our next game and get a good game plan. We are really going to try to compete well and try to take advantage of every opportunity,” he said. “Fort Hays State is a challenging team. It's going to take a fantastic effort on both ends of the floor to have a chance to beat them. We can't slip up."
The NSU women are currently 10-15 overall, 7-11 in the league and ninth in the conference standings. Fort Hays State (18-7, 11-7) is ranked 10th in the Central Region rankings and is half game behind Missouri Southern for fourth in the standings.
The women will tip off at 6 p.m. The men will follow at 8.