After starting slowly and falling behind by double-digits, Kansas State (7-3) shut down Nebraska (5-7) for eight minutes, ran off a 16-0 scoring burst of its own, and ultimately beat the Cornhuskers 67-58 in Lincoln Sunday evening.
If you tuned in to the Big 10 Network looking for artful basketball, your Christmas wishes were denied. The action at times resembled more an open-gym scrimmage than a schemed and executed college game. Nebraska shot 32.8 percent from the floor, including a ghastly 5-28 (17.9%) from three-point range. Add in that the ‘Huskers made 5 of their first 8 long attempts, and you get a more complete picture. Nebraska went on to miss their next 20 tries, a stat that must drive their head coach, former college shooting machine Fred Hoiberg, nuts.
K-State was just enough better to win. The Cats shot 39 percent overall, including 6-26 (23.1%) from deep. But after a second-half surge gave Nebraska a two-point advantage, a corner three-pointer by Ismael Massoud and a high wing make by Nijel Pack each reclaimed leads for the Wildcats, denying Nebraska the chance to build on its short-lived advantages. Pack’s make, at the 9:44 mark, made it 48-47 Cats and kicked off an 8-0 run that gave K-State a two-possession lead, 53-47, and put them in front to stay.
Nebraska would hang around, getting the margin back to 59-55 inside of three minutes. But a Pack free throw made the lead five, and a deep three by Mark Smith with 1:34 to play put K-State up 63-55 and effectively iced the game.
K-State won despite committing 19 turnovers. Three of those were the result of unforgiveable backcourt nonchalance that gave six free points to the Huskers. Two of those three occurred when only one Nebraska player was defending the play. Carelessness was costly. Better execution by the Huskers—or a few more shots dropping magically through their hoop—could have made those mistakes enough to turn the outcome.
Nebraska, in addition to shooting poorly, committed 17 turnovers of its own and was out-rebounded 44-36. K-State also won at the free throw line, making 15-18 (83.3%), compared to 15-22 (68.2%) for Nebraska.
The Wildcats got balanced scoring, as Pack led with 15 and Massoud added 10. Big men Kaosi Ezeagu and Davion Bradford both scored 9, and four other ‘Cats scored at least twice. Ezeagu and Bradford’s scoring was a big difference in the game, enabling K-State to enjoy a 34-28 advantage in the paint. Nine Wildcats scored in the game.
Markquis Nowell was off the mark, scoring 4 points on 2-11 shooting and committing five turnovers. Mark Smith shot better, going 2-3, with both makes being three-pointers, for his six points. But he also turned the ball over six times. Ezeagu was a point and a rebound shy of a double-double. In addition to his 15 points, Pack led the team with 5 assists and was second in rebounds, with 8.
Nebraska’s Alonzo Verge Jr. led all scorers with 21, and Bryce McGowens added 14, albeit on 4-14 marksmanship. Keisi Tominaga made two early three-point baskets and then forced long and off-balance shots the rest of the day, ending with 8 points on 3-13 overall, 2-10 three-point, shooting.
Three in the Key
- Style points don’t go in the box score or on the record. Good thing, because there were few to be found in this one. One notable exception: A second half lob from Pack to Massoud that was too high, barely touchable, and yet somehow found its way redirected through the rim. Style can be accidental. Can’t it?
- The seemingly ageless Fred Hoiberg has to be frustrated with the offensive ineptitude of his team. Hoiberg was a smooth, deadly efficient scorer as a player at Iowa State. But his offense could not generate clean looks, and three guys taking turns at hero ball could not make enough plays to hold the home court. Hoiberg has proven his coaching acumen in the past, and you have to think he will eventually get his guys playing more systematic basketball. But there were times tonight when everything his Huskers did looked like bad ad-lib.
- Last shout-out goes to Davion Bradford. After looking weak and winded to start the year (a result of pneumonia recovery, we are told), the big guy showed flashes of his old self against Marquette. He brought it again in Lincoln, dropping his 9 points in only 14 minutes of play. If Coach Weber can get that effort—and extend the big guy past the 20-minute mark in playing time—Nigel, Selton and the newcomers may find themselves with a helpful contrast to their more perimeter-oriented skill set.
The Wildcats host the 3-8 McNeese Cowboys Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.