Wildcats husk off Nebraska in former Big 12 matchup

Guard Desi Sills looks to drive with the ball during the game against Abilene Christian on Dec. 6. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State men’s basketball defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 71-56 at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The win over the former conference foe moves K-State to 10-1 in head coach Jerome Tang’s inaugural season — improving upon the best start by a first-year coach in school history.

“We’ve got some competitors and they wanna win,” Tang said. “I think everyday we care more about winning than we care about individual stats.” 

The first ten minutes saw pretty even play. K-State, however, held an early advantage thanks to strong ball movement that created shots beyond the arc. Twelve of the Wildcats’ first 17 points came from three-pointers and they lead 17-14.

This trend continued for much of the first half as K-State drained six three-pointers and tallied 13 assists. The Wildcats then pulled away from Nebraska after a series of defensive stops and highlight plays. 

Guard Markquis Nowell hit a three-pointer from way downtown, fittingly in the T-Mobile Center. Nowell followed the shot with yet another flashy assist to forward Keyontae Johnson for a slam. Johnson would then create his own steal-and-slam. In the final seconds, Nowell connected with center David N’Guessan to slam close to a dominant Wildcat finish to the half.  K-State led 39-26 at the break. 

“If we can get to the rim and get dunks that means good things are happening … and then the crowd gets behind us and those dudes get to flying around,” Tang said. “When that ball goes into the hoop, whether it’s dunks or threes these guys … it just fires them up.”

Immediately out of the half, Johnson took control. Nine points in the first five minutes for the senior forward gave K-State their largest lead of 16 points. 

The Wildcats had established control of the matchup, all that was left was fighting off any attempt by Nebraska to come back. K-State, still led by Johnson, rarely gave the Cornhuskers hope. A late push by Nebraska to cut the Wildcat lead under ten wouldn’t be enough.

Johnson led the team in scoring and rebounding, totaling 23 points and 10 rebounds — his second double-double this year. Nowell notched seven assists and 13 points, nine from three-pointers. Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin rounded out scorers in double figures with 15 points.

The victory against a power-5 team in Nebrasksa, who recently defeated No. 7 Creighton, could pay dividends on a resume in March. K-State has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2019. 

Up next for the K-State Wildcats is Radford at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Bramlage Coliseum before conference play opens against West Virginia.