Courtesy of K-State Athletics
OXFORD, Miss. – Kansas State’s offense could never find any rhythm, as Ole Miss controlled the paint and made the Wildcats take a near school-record 36 attempts from 3-point range en route to a 67-56 victory on Saturday afternoon in the ninth annual Big 12/SEC Challenge before 7,135 fans at The Sandy & John Black Pavilion.
K-State (10-10, 2-6 Big 12) fell to 3-6 all-time in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and remained winless in 5 road games in the series. The loss was also the fourth straight in the Challenge series.
Ole Miss (11-10, 2-6 SEC), which avenged 2 earlier losses to K-State in the Challenge series, held the Wildcats to a season-low 30.2 percent (19-of-63) shooting from the field, including 30.6 percent (11-of-36) from 3-point range, while allowing just 14 points in the paint, 2 points off turnovers and 2 fast-break points. In addition, the Rebels posted a 43-33 advantage on the glass, as the Wildcats fell to 0-8 this season when being out-rebounded.
K-State, which played for the most part without starters Davion Bradford and Selton Miguel, got inspired efforts from fifth-year senior Mark Smith and sophomore Nijel Pack, who combined for 38 of the Wildcats’ 56 points. Smith collected his team-leading fifth double-double of the season with a game-high 20 points and a career-tying 16 rebounds, while Pack added 18 points and a season-high 7 assists. It was Smith’s eighth career 20-point game, while his 16 boards matched his total in his first Big 12 game at Oklahoma on January 1. Pack, who posted his team-leading 17th double-digit scoring game, hit 6 or more 3-pointers for the third time this season.
Despite the notable days from Smith and Pack, the rest of the Wildcats combined for just 18 points, hitting on just 7-of-32 attempts (21.9 percent) from the field, including 3-of-17 (17.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Ole Miss matched its impressive effort on the defensive front with an efficient afternoon on offense, connecting 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from the field, including 51.1 percent (17-of-33) from inside the 3-point arc, and scoring nearly half its points (32) in the paint. The team also knocked 15 of 20 attempts (75 percent) from the line.
Six of the eight Rebels who played in the game scored at least 6 points, including a pair of double-digit scorers in freshman Daeshun Ruffin, who led the team with 17 points, and junior Luis Rodriguez, who chipped 10 points. Sophomore Matthew Murrell and senior Tye Fagan each added 9 points.
K-State’s 36 attempts from 3-point range were just one shy of the school record set twice, first in 2005 then again in 2020, and tied for the third-most all-time. The Wildcats did connect on 11 of its 36 attempts from long range, marking the seventh time they had 10 or more made 3-pointers in a game this season, but managed just 8 other baskets inside the 3-point arc.
Ole Miss now leads the all-time series, 4-2, including 2-0 in games played at home.
Neither team enjoyed good starts to the game, as K-State opened 1-of-7 from the field while Ole Miss was not much better at 1-of-6 from the floor. Sophomore Nijel Pack was able to finally shake off the poor start with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Wildcats an 8-6 lead and to force a Rebel timeout at the 14:28 mark.
The timeout seemed to correct Ole Miss’ slow start, as the Rebels used a 10-2 run to take a 16-11 lead at the second media timeout with 11:18 to play before halftime. Senior Mike McGuirl was able to convert after head coach Bruce Weber’s first timeout at the 7:37 mark to cut the deficit to 21-18 but the Rebels ran off 9 of the next 11 points to take its first double-digit lead at 30-20 with 1:57 remaining. K-State was able to finish off the half on a positive note, as sophomore Luke Kasubke finished off a rare 4-point play to close to within 30-24.
Ole Miss seized the momentum out of halftime, scoring the first 7 points to take a 13-point lead at 37-24 and force Weber to call his second timeout with just over 17 to play. Fifth-year senior Mark Smith single-handedly got
K-State back into the game with a personal 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 40-34 with 14:04 remaining.
The Rebels responded with the decisive run of the game, scoring 12 of the next 18 points to push back ahead by double figures at 52-40 with 8:45 to play. The Wildcats could never get any closer than 9 points the rest of the way.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Fifth-year Mark Smith collected his team-best fifth double-double with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, to go with a career-tying 16 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Sophomore Nijel Pack scored in double figures for the team-leading 17th time, scoring all 18 of his points from 3-point range, as he knocked down 6 of 13 attempts to go with a season-high 7 assists in 37 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
32-14 – Ole Miss held a +18 point differential in the paint, outscoring K-State, 32-14. The 14 points in the paint were the fewest of the season for the Wildcats.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the game…
“The first thing in the scouting report is that they’re talented. Obviously, they are. They’ve had some inconsistency, but they do have length, they have some talent. They had injuries, they’ve kind of come together a little bit. We just got to play better. You gotta have more people play better when it comes down to it and I thought early we had good shots. We just didn’t make them and that’s where they get that 6-, 8-point lead. And then we just stayed there. We just could never get them tight at all. I challenged Mark (Smith). He’s had a couple of games where he hasn’t done as much. I just said, ‘What can you really do well?’ He said, ‘Rebound.’ I said, go rebound and worry about that. Ironically, he worries about rebounding and he ends up scoring in the game, so 20 and 16 is pretty good. Nijel (Pack) kept us in early, knocked some threes down when other people weren’t. He had 7 assists. I think that’s the best of the year. We just didn’t get enough out of some other guys. Luke (Kasubke) gave us a little boost off the bench, obviously a 4-point play at the end of the half. We get it within 6, come out with the ball, put a little pressure on them but we just could never do it. The paint was obviously, if you look at it, 32 to 14 and they blocked a lot of shots. And that’s where we had to make the next play, the extra play. I don’t think our defense was bad, but it wasn’t good enough to get stops when we needed to at the right time.”