K-State expected that its nine-day road trip was going to be a challenge. They also understood that their return home would be no cakewalk, either.
After dropping their final two games at the 2014 Maui Invitational last week, including a 70-47 blowout to Pittsburgh, the Wildcats responded with an 84-66 win over Nebraska-Omaha Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State will return to action Saturday on the road against Tennessee. The game is a part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge and will tip at 2:15 p.m.
The Mavericks entered no slouch, having previously knocked off Marquette on the road, while also playing close to Nebraska in Lincoln.
“Our staff, we were scared,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “We were trying to make sure the team was scared. We led the scouting tape off with 24-7 against Nebraska, showed the score beating Marquette, then Nevada, they win by 20. We knew it was going to be a tough game. To our guys’ credit, enough guys stepped up and made plays. Once we ran offense, took care of the ball and were patient, we were able to get what we wanted.”
Senior forward Nino Williams led the home team in scoring Tuesday with 19 points as K-State moved to 4-3 on the season. Marcus Foster added 16 points and Jevon Thomas added 12.
K-State finished the game shooting 53 percent on 32 of 60 shooting, including 43 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats were also big on the boards, outrebounding Nebraska-Omaha 43 to 25.
Inconsistent to start the ballgame, K-State bounced back with a series of runs to take a 60-48 advantage early in the second half. Williams then went on a tear, scoring K-State’s next 11 points on four layups and a 3-pointer.
“I was just playing, I didn’t even think I had that many points,” Williams said. “The game got energized, and once the game got energized, Jevon Thomas and I gave energy and we just played. Jevon made a couple good assists. It was a good team win and we had 23 assists so everybody was finding each other.”
Leading 69-50 at that point, K-State cruised to the easy victory. Nebraska-Omaha pulled within 14 points with five minutes remaining, but had three players foul out to end the game.
Senior guard C.J. Carter, who entered the game averaging 16.6 points a contest, led the Mavericks in scoring with 22 points. The only other Nebraska-Omaha player in double figures was freshman Rylan Murry with 11 points.
A strong start from Nebraska-Omaha saw the Mavericks take a 16-10 lead midway through the first half. K-State’s first lead of the game didn’t come until the 7:30 mark when Thomas hit his first of two 3-pointers.
Nebraska-Omaha regained the lead four minutes later on a 3-pointer of its own from Carter, but on the other end, Marcus Foster hit a jumper to spark 13-2 run late in the first half to give the Wildcats a 37-31 advantage heading into the break.
Stephen Hurt and Justin Edwards combined for eight points during the run — Foster with four.
K-State finished the first half 46.7 percent from the field on 14 of 30 shooting, hitting seven of their final 10 shots after opening the half shooting just 35 percent.
Facing a deficit early in the second half, Nebraska-Omaha pulled within six points on back-to-back 3-pointers by Murry and Devin Patterson. However, it was the closest they would get to being back in the game.
“I wish we played a little bit better down the stretch,” Nebraska-Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen said after the game. “Their number of bodies ended up wearing us out down the stretch. They’re a really well-coached team, we’re happy to be here tonight and have battled them for 33, 34 minutes but it wasn’t enough.”