Huggins and Co. put up another Conference Win

Luis Colon and Jason Bennett were given a tough task against Nebraska Saturday night. The two freshmen centers for the Kansas State men's basketball team were asked by coach Bob Huggins to defend one of the best big men in the Big 12 Conference, Aleks Maric, and they proved to be up to the task.

The duo rotated in and out of the game to stay fresh, and they were able to confuse Maric and take him out of his game offensively. They never allowed him to establish a low-post presence, and the defensive pressure on Maric was one of the main keys that gave the Wildcats the edge they needed to defeat Nebraska 61-45 in Bramlage Coliseum.

"I though we played pretty good defense. I thought the two freshmen (Bennett and Colon) played good. They were as good as they've been all season," Huggins said. "We just tried to take away angles. He is a really good passer out of the post, so we tried not to come at him at the same angle every time. We tried to mix it up in practice so they could understand a little bit better how to guard him."

The big center for Nebraska played only 27 minutes and Bennett and Colon combined for 26 minutes, coming on and off the court when Maric did the same. He got into foul trouble early and when he wasn't in the game, the Cornhuskers played numerous rotations of guards.

When they changed lineups, K-State countered by resting Colon and Bennett and bringing in a smaller lineup with faster guards and forwards like junior Clent Stewart and senior Cartier Martin.

Maric came into the game as the fifth-leading scorer in the Big 12 at 18 points per game, but he finished the game with only 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He did bring down nine rebounds, but his rebounding ability never became much of a threat to the Wildcats.

Colon and Bennett never scored, but the defensive presence they brought was more important than points on the scoreboard. Colon finished with six rebounds and Bennett blocked Maric twice.

K-State was able to take a 27-20 halftime lead, mainly because Maric was held scoreless in the opening half.

"That was definitely the game plan," junior forward David Hoskins said. "We were just making sure he had to shoot over our guys and couldn't get to the rim.

"For me it was easy, but I'm sure for Luis it was kinda hard. You got a guy that size; it's tough to hold him to no points in the first half. He stepped up and played like a man tonight."

Colon earned the respect of the Nebraska big man, and he also complemented the rest of K-State on its hard-nosed defense.

"They switched it up a lot," he said. "They doubled and pressured every position. It was hard to get accustomed to their defense."

Maric wasn't the only Cornhusker to struggle offensively.

Nebraska (12-7 overall, 1-4 Big 12) came into the game averaging 71 points per game, and the 45 points scored was a season-low. The team was also held to just 37 percent field goal shooting, including 20 percent from the three-point line and a mediocre 41.7 percent from the free-throw line.

K-State only shot 33 percent from the field, but dominated in almost every other area statistically.

The Wildcats outrebounded Nebraska 35-27, made more threes (7-4) and also converted more free throws (26-5).

K-State only made five field goals in the entire second half, but was still able to outscore Nebraska 34-25 because of 21 made free throws.

K-State (15-6, 4-2 Big 12) has now four consecutive conference games, something it hasn't done in 17 years. The Wildcats are also on a five-game winning streak for the second time this season.

The 4-2 mark in the Big 12 is best ever for a K-State squad through six conference games since the inception of the Big 12.

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