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Fort Hays State One Victory Away From Unblemished Season

March 22, 1996

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Top-ranked Fort Hays State is one game away from a season of perfection.

Fort Hays State (33-0) will try to become only the third team in the 40-year history of NCAA Division II basketball to finish with an unbeaten season when it meets No. 19 Northern Kentucky for the championship Saturday.

``We’re not satisfied with winning the (North Central) region and just getting here,″ Geoff Eck said. ``Coach (Gary Garner) told us not to be satisfied until you win the championship.″

Fort Hays State earned its trip to the final with a 76-56 victory over No. 14 California (Pa.), while Northern Kentucky upset No. 2 Virginia Union 68-66.

Evansville (1965) and Cal State Bakersfield (1993) also had unbeaten records in Division II.

Sherick Simpson scored eight points during a 12-2 run that gave Fort Hays State a 37-25 lead with 18:04 remaining. California (27-6) got no closer than 42-33 on Robert Jones’ 17-footer.

Eck scored 19 points, while Anthony Pope had 17, Simpson 15 and Alonzo Goldston 12 for Fort Hays State.

``We got our inside and outside game going,″ said Garner, whose team made 10 of 23 shots from 3-point range.

California (27-6), which shot just 33 percent (19-of-58) from the field, was led by Jones’ 20 points, while Derrick Scott and Brent Kincaid scored 12 apiece.

``Fort Hays’ defense didn’t let us get the ball where we wanted to,″ California coach Jim Boone said. ``Give them a tremendous amount of credit. They have a great team. They did a much better job of running their half-court offense than we did.″

LaRon Moore hit a 10-foot turnaround jumper with 3.2 seconds left to spark Northern Kentucky to its third consecutive upset win. The Norse also downed No. 4 Southern Indiana 99-87 in the Great Lakes Regional final and No. 6 Cal State Bakersfield 56-55 in the quarterfinals of the Elite Eight.

``LaRon Moore stepped up and hit a big, big shot,″ said Northern Kentucky coach Ken Shields, whose team squandered a 13-point lead in the second half. ``We got a little careless, which we have had a tendency to do with double-digit leads.″

Moore and Paul Cluxton each scored 20 points to lead Northern Kentucky, which made 44 percent (27-of-61) of its shots and turned the ball over only eight times.

Northern Kentucky made 10 of 25 3-point shots, including Cluxton’s 6-of-12.

``They hit some NBA 3s,″ said Virginia Union coach Dave Robbins, whose team missed 10 of 13 3-point attempts. ``There’s not a lot you can do about that. We played a lot of zone. Maybe that was a poor decision. But we had to dance with what brought us here.″

Luther Bates scored 20 points, while Maurice Greene and Thomas Moore had 11 apiece for Virginia Union. The Tigers shot 41 percent (25-of-61) and turned the ball over 14 times.

``I don’t know if we played poorly,″ Robbins said. ``We got the ball down inside, but the shots just didn’t go in. Our guys fought back and showed a lot of courage.″

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