Huskers Beat Cats behind Star Performance

LINCOLN, Neb. – Kansas State knew it would have to focus its defense attack primarily on Nebraska center Aleks Maric, but the men's basketball team was never able to find a solution to the big man, who scored a career-high 41 points on 13-of-19 shooting from the field to lead the Cornhuskers to a 74-63 victory over the Wildcats Tuesday night in the Devaney Center.

The 6-foot-11, 270-pound junior grabbed eight rebounds and had three blocks on the defensive end for Nebraska (15-9, 4-6 Big 12), but most of his evening was spent on the free-throw line and in the paint.

He went 15-for-25 from the line, both career-highs. His attempts were both a school and Big 12 Conference era single-game record.

Maric had just the fourth 40-point game in Husker history, and also had the highest point total by any Big 12 player in any game this season.

He tied for the fourth-highest scoring game by any player ever in the history of the Big 12, and it was the most ever by a Nebraska player at home.

"He's a good player, and he did a great job," K-State coach Bob Huggins said. "He had good positioning inside and he seemed to get the ball thrown right to him a lot."

Maric got most of his points because the Wildcats (18-8, 7-4 Big 12) had to match up a smaller player to guard him, and he would overpower the defender virtually every time.

K-State started the defensive effort with freshman Luis Colon, but Maric had his way with him and Colon quickly picked up a foul and was replaced by freshman Jason Bennett.

Bennett didn't fair much better, picking up two quick fouls. Colon came back into the game, only to pick up two more. All of these fouls were assessed while these two freshmen were trying to guard Maric. Within the first 14 minutes, K-State's two big men had a combined five fouls and Maric had 17 of Nebraska's first 21 points.

With Colon and Bennett in foul trouble, the Wildcats turned to senior Cartier Martin and junior David Hoskins to attempt to defend Maric.

The leaders for K-State did all they could, but every time they tried to front Maric the Husker guards would throw a lob pass over the outstretched Wildcat arms and Maric would be left with an easy lay-up or dunk. And every time they let him get post position, he would receive the entry pass and shoot the ball over the shorter Martin and Hoskins.

Hoskins defended Maric for most of the game, and as one would expect, was the first to foul out.

K-State was down for most of the game, but was making a charge in the second half. Martin hit a jumper at the 10:07 mark to cut the lead to 48-42 after having been down by as many as 12 points earlier in the second half.

On Nebraska's next possession, Hoskins fouled Maric on a made shot attempt, picking up his fourth foul. Maric missed the ensuing free throw attempt, and Hoskins knocked the ball out of bounds and was given a technical foul after saying something to a referee.

A technical counts as a personal foul, which meant Hoskins had fouled out of the game with 9:40 left, and K-State was not the same for the rest of the game.

Senior Akeem Wright and Martin both fouled out later in the game, and Maric continued to exploit the smaller defenders K-State used to try and guard him.

Martin led the Wildcats with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He connected on four 3-point shots and grabbed five rebounds, and has now scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games.

Seniors Lance Harris and Jermaine Maybank had 15 and 12 respectively, and Maybank had three steals and two blocks.

Hoskins led the Wildcats in rebounding with seven, but he scored only eight points, snapping his streak of 18 consecutive games scoring in double figures.

This game was a complete turnaround from the matchup earlier in the season in Bramlage Coliseum where Maric didn't score in the first half and was ineffective the whole game.

With the loss, K-State now sits alone in fourth in the conference, and will need to win at least three of its last five games if it wants to have any shot of making the NCAA Tournament in March.

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