Cats beat Huskers, 78-61

A snowstorm rumbling through Manhattan only served to cool off Nebraska Wednesday night.

Jeremiah Massey and Kansas State were on fire in a 78-61 win at Bramlage Coliseum.

Behind a 12-3 second-half run, during which Massey scored six points, the Wildcats blew open a close game and opened a 61-44 lead they would never relinquish.

Kansas State shot a blistering 62.8 percent from the field, the first time over 60 percent since a 60.7-percent mark against Texas Pan-Am during the 2002 season. Massey finished with a career-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting while guards Jarrett Hart and Tim Ellis each chipped in 16. Ellis was 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc during a three-minute stretch late in the game as the Cats built a 66-52 lead.

"We just came out feeling good," Massey said. "We knew there wouldn't be a big crowd because of the weather. Coach said before the game that all there is was us, and we had to get it done as a team."

At one point, Ellis hit six consecutive shots to keep the lead at double-figures with under five minutes remaining.

"I was just playing within myself -- taking what the defense gave me," Ellis said. "I saw the opportunity to knock down shots and took them."

Nebraska (11-7, 1-6) fought back, though, going on a run of its own to pull within 66-57 with 3:32 to go. But Massey rose to the occasion again, knocking down two free throws to pull the Cats ahead 68-57. The Wildcats salted it away with free throws after that to win their second Big 12 game of the season.

"This league will beat you up," Coach Jim Wooldridge said. "We're gaining a little confidence. We had ten games left and we said we're going to make a new season of it and make the most of those ten games."

Nebraska got on the board first, though, on a tip-in by Marcus Neal that triggered five scores in the Huskers' first six possessions. A Neal 3-pointer with 16:36 to go in the first half pulled Nebraska ahead 12-4.

But Kansas State (10-8, 2-5) responded with a 17-3 run of its own during which six different Wildcats scored, capped by a fast break basket by Justin Williams off a no-look feed from guard Dez Willingham. The basket gave the Cats a 21-15 lead.

"This week Coach was talking about being accountable for ourselves," Hart said. "We were telling ourselves we need to pick it up in the huddle. Coach was sitting there showing us the plays, but it's guys stepping up on the court and showing what they could do that's working for us right now.

With 5:00 remaining in the half, Kansas State was shooting a scalding 70.8 percent from the field, better than twice what the Cats shot in their loss to Missouri. The scoreboard reflected that pace as Kansas State opened its biggest lead of the half, 32-23, on a Hart floater in the lane.

"I don't think anything changed," Hart said. "One night you're off, one night you're on. That's the thing about this team -- we're a competitive bunch. It doesn't matter how we do it."

Hart finished the first half with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting while Massey scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Only four Huskers scored in the half, led by three Neal 3-pointers. He scored 11 of his career-high 13 points in the first 20 minutes.

But the Huskers were held to just 5-of-14 shooting at halftime, as the Wildcats forced 13 Husker turnovers.

"It was our defense -- hustle plays, offensive rebounds. We made some mistakes but we covered up with things we could control," Hart said. "Coach was telling us it would be a possession game and we're slowly beginning to figure that out."

Another sore spot, aside from field goal shooting, had been at the charity stripe. The Cats knocked down 18-of-26 free throws against the Huskers.

Ellis gave Massey the credit for firing the Wildcats up early, noting his 26-point performance. But Massey dished the credit for his and the team's performance to, of all things, the Wildcat pep band.

"I was feeling it, probably when I heard the band before the game," he said. "The band gets me going real good."

BOX SCORE Kansas State 78

Massey (8-12, 8-9) 24, Hayden (1-3, 3-6) 5, Willingham (2-2, 0-0) 5, Ellis (6-7, 1-2) 16, Hart (5-8, 4-5) 16, Harris (0-2, 0-0) 0, Martin (2-4, 0-2) 4, Diarra (1-1, 0-0) 2, Richards (1-3, 2-2) 4, Canby (0-0, 0-0) 0, Williams (1-1, 0-0) 2

Nebraska 61

Conklin (1-5, 0-0) 3, Drevo (5-12, 2-2) 13, Johnson (4-11, 2-2) 12, Neal (6-16, 0-0) 15, Muhleisen (3-8, 1-2) 8, Dourisseau (0-2, 0-0) 0, Richardson (0-1, 0-0) 0, Wilkinson (0-0, 0-0) 0, Simms (0-0, 1-2) 1, Turek (0-4, 9-10) 9

Rebounds: KSU 31, NU 24 Assists: KSU 20, NU 10 Turnovers: KSU 18, NU 13 Steals: KSU 11, NU 4 Halftime Score: KSU 35-29

---Kansas State leads the all-time series 117-88, which dates to 1906. The series is the third-longest in school history.
---Kansas State has won eight of the last nine meetings in Manhattan. Coach Jim Wooldridge is 4-4 against the Huskers -- 3-1 in Manhattan.
---For just the third time this season, Kansas State was at full-strength. Five total players have missed a total of 29 games due to injury or suspension.
---Entering Wednesday's game, Kansas State and Nebraska were tied for 10 th in the Big 12 at 1-5, a half game ahead of Baylor. Oklahoma, the next team in the pecking order, is 3-3 in the league and recently handed Kansas State a 61-49 loss in Norman.
---Kansas State's guards -- Tim Ellis, Dez Willingham, Jarrett Hart and Frank Richards -- account for nearly 60 percent of the Wildcats' scoring.
---Wildcat reserve guard Schyler Thomas is an Omaha, Neb. Native and prepared at Central High School. He played against many Huskers, including Omaha (Burke HS) product Jason Dourisseau.
---Kansas State guard Frank Richards was the only returning player to start all 30 games for the Wildcats last season. Ironically, after starting 45-straight games, Richards didn't start for the third consecutive time against Nebraska.

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