Via K-State Athletics
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Senior Keyontae Johnson collected his second double-double of the season to pace four Wildcats in double figures, as Kansas State led from nearly start to finish in earning a 71-56 win over former conference foe Nebraska in the 11th Wildcat Classic on Saturday night before 13,184 fans at the T-Mobile Center.
The win helped K-State (10-1) continue its best start to a season since 2016-17, as the Wildcats snapped a 4-game skid in the T-Mobile Center while handing Nebraska (6-6) its seventh straight defeat in the series.
Johnson led all scorers with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 field goals, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, to go with a game-best 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a career-tying 4 steals in 34 minutes. It was his 15th career double-double, including his seventh with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, while it was his 11th career 20-point contest. He has now scored in double figures in all 11 games this season.
Johnson was joined in double figures by junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting,
including 2-of-5 from long range, along with senior Markquis Nowell and sophomore Cam Carter, who finished with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Nowell added a game-high 7 assists.
K-State playing in its first Wildcat Classic since a 66-63 loss to Saint Louis in 2019, used a strong finish to the first half to build a double-digit lead at the break. The Wildcats continued to extend that lead in the first 11 minutes of the second half, building as much as a 19-point lead at 59-40 before Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg called a timeout with just over 9 minutes to play in the game.
The timeout seemed to ignite the Cornhuskers, as they rattled off 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 59-50 with under 4 minutes to play before a corner 3-pointer by freshman Jamarques Lawrence got them to within 62-55 with 1:19 remaining. However, they could get no closer as the Wildcats scored 7 straight points and 9 of the last 10 points – all from the free throw line – to close the game out.
After shooting 48.4 percent (15-of-31), including 40 percent (6-of-15) from 3-point range, in the first half, K-State had to survive a poor second-half shooting performance, where he hit on just 31 percent (9-of-29) from the field, including 30.8 percent (4-of-13) from beyond the arc. For game, the Wildcats connected on 40 percent (24-of-60) from the field, including 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from 3-point range, while making 13 of 19 free throws.
Nebraska connected on just 32.1 percent (18-of-56) from the field, including just 19 percent (4-of-21) from 3-point range, while making 72.7 percent (16-of-22) from the free throw line. Only one Cornhusker scored in double figures, as sophomore Wilhelm Breidenbach had 13 points off the bench on 5-of-9 shooting.
Senior and Kansas City native Derrick Walker, who led Nebraska with averages of 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds on the season, was held to just 7 points on 1-of-5 shooting with 6 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
The game was the second in a 3-game series between the old conference rivals with Nebraska visiting Bramlage Coliseum for the third installment during the 2023-24 season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After Nebraska scored the game’s first points on a dunk by junior Juwan Gary, senior Markquis Nowell gave K-State the lead on a 3-pointer on the next possession, which started a run of 8 consecutive points. The Huskers closed the gap to within 1 point on two separate occasions, but the Wildcats seemed to always have an answer, riding the efforts of senior Keyontae Johnson and junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin to build a 39-26 lead at the half.
K-State scored 14 of the last 19 points of the first half, which was capped by consecutive dunks by Tomlin and junior David N’Guessan.
The momentum continued for the Wildcats in the first 11 minutes of the second half, as they built as much as a
19-point lead at 59-40 before Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg called a timeout with 8:52 remaining. The timeout seemed to ignite the Cornhuskers, as they rattled off a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 59-50 and force head coach Jerome Tang to call a timeout with 3:43 remaining.
A 3-pointer by Tomlin on the subsequent possession gave K-State more breathing room at 62-50, but Nebraska was able to use a 5-0 run to close to within 62-55 with 1:20 to play. However, the Cornhuskers could get no closer, as the Wildcats closed it out at the free throw line, knocking 7 in a row and 9 of their last 10 at the line.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Senior Keyontae Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring for the sixth time this season with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 field goals, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, with a game-best 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a career-tying 4 steals in 34 minutes. He has now scored in double figures in all 11 games.
Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin had an impressive line with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, to go with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 34 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
20/24 – Kansas State had 20 assists on 24 made field goals with 6 of the 7 players who saw action registering at least 2 assists led by game-high 7 from senior Markquis Nowell. The Wildcats are sixth nationally in assist % (assists to made field goals) at 67.5 percent (201 assists to 298 made field goals).