In the final minutes, the game looked like a repeat of Colorado just a week ago, but something was different. It was a glint in the Wildcats' eyes. It was the toughness that has finally -- finally -- been forged on the road. It was Tim Ellis, making arguably the biggest play of the season.
Kansas State has finally won a Big 12 road game, knocking off Nebraska and sweeping the season series with a 63-58 win at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Nebraska led 56-51 with just over two minutes remaining, but the Cats pulled to within 56-53 as the clock ticked under a minute. A Jeremiah Massey floating jumpshot from the free throw line cinched the lead to 56-55. Nebraska's Nate Johnson spun and sliced through the Cat defense to go back up 58-55, but Ellis came back yet again, draining two free throws with the clock stopped at 50.2 seconds remaining.
A missed shot by Brian Conklin with 21 seconds left opened the door for the Wildcats. With time melting down, Massey took a pass on the low post and Conklin hacked him as he went up. After clanking the first free throw off the back iron, the second danced around the rim and it too bounced off. But Ellis -- who else -- crashed the boards and tipped in what amounted to the game-winning basket with 2.6 seconds remaining.
From there, anarchy reigned. A water bottle thrown from the stands resulted in a Husker technical foul, and Ellis rolled in four straight free throws with 0.1 seconds left shining on the clock, giving the Cats the win.
It snapped the Huskers' three-game winning streak -- they hadn't lost since visiting Manhattan two weeks ago, and most recently upset then-No. 11 Kansas at the Devaney Center.
It look like the Wildcats' second-half woes would continue, as Nebraska blew open a 29-24 halftime lead to take a 33-24 lead with 18:47 remaining. But Ellis made two free throws to break a 4-minute scoring drought, triggering a run that tied the game at 33. From there it was like a heavyweight fight -- Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko... sort of -- as both teams took the lead over the next two minutes. Nebraska (14-8, 4-7) eventually opened a 44-38 lead, but Kansas State (12-10, 4-7) stormed back to set up the fervent finish.
Ellis finished with a game-high 25 points on just 6-of-9 shooting, but was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. In the Wildcats' last two road games, Ellis has scored 25 at Colorado and 20 at Texas Tech. Massey finished with 17 points, continuing his torrid Big 12 pace, while Jarrett Hart had 7 and Justin Williams 6.
Nate Johnson led the Huskers with 17 points, including eight of Nebraska's final 10. Corey Simms and Andrew Drevo each pitched in 10.
The first half was one of runs for the Wildcats, as Kansas State missed its first five shots to fall behind 6-0 with 15:52 to play. But Ellis, who has shot better than 69 percent from the field during the last two weeks, hit a mid-range jumper and Frank Richards rattled one in to pull back to within 6-4. That sparked a favorable run, in which the Wildcats connected on 6-of-9 field goals.
Foul trouble ensued, as Marques Hayden picked up his third personal with 13:07 left in the half, after reentering the game for just more than three seconds. Ten minutes later, Drammane Diarra picked up a fourth personal foul with 3:37 to go in the half.
The Huskers took advantage, inching ahead by as many as a dozen. Two free throws by Jake Muhleisen pulled Nebraska ahead, 28-16. But the Wildcats, after clanking four consecutive shots, started running once again. Dez Willingham buried a jumper with 2:48 left in the half. Ellis knocked down a jumper, Travis Canby scored on a strong post move, and Ellis ended an 8-0 Wildcat run with a pair of free throws as Kansas State climbed to within 28-24 with under a minute remaining before halfitme.
The Wildcats had been averaging 80 points per game, but managed just 24 over the first 20 minutes. The Cats did outshoot Nebraska 38 percent to 31 percent, but it was 3-point shooting that allowed the Huskers to distance themselves early. Nebraska connected on 5-of-11 3-pointers while Kansas State was 0-for-3. The Huskers also out-rebounded Kansas State in the first half 23-15.
Wildcats win wild one in Lincoln, 63-58
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