February 20, 2008

Road loss hurts Cats' title hopes

LINCOLN, Neb. -- If Big 12 championships are won on the road, the Kansas State Wildcats may have lost their shot at a conference title Wednesday night at Nebraska. The Huskers pestered and frustrated Michael Beasley and the No. 24 Wildcats, taking a 71-64 victory and handing the Cats their third-straight league road loss.

"That was a very good team we played tonight," said Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, who saw his student sections rush the court after winning the game shown nationally on ESPN2. "We're trying to build something and this was just the first step. This is probably the biggest win since I've been here."

While Nebraska's defense set the tone for the night, it was Nebraska's offense that won the game. Nebraska shot 51.9 percent from the field, mostly because many of the Huskers' points came off easy backdoor cuts that sliced up the Wildcats' defense. Junior Steve Harley benefited from many of the easy baskets, scoring his game-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field.

"In 23 years of coaching, that was the most embarrassing defensive performance of a team I have coached, and that includes 13-year-olds," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "I saw them shoot uncontested lay-up after uncontested lay-up after uncontested lay-up after uncontested lay-up. And whenever they chose to miss, I saw them getting offensive rebounds."

It's not that the Wildcats didn't have plenty of chances to win the game, but inept offense in the face of a masterful defensive gameplan by Sadler that bottled up Beasley, who still somehow managed his 22nd double-double of the season, never allowed K-State to take control.

"Give them credit. Doc is a good basketball coach. Doc's a grinder and he gets his teams to compete. He doesn't like losing and his teams don't like losing," Martin said. "They came out there and played with a lot more passion than we did and they deserved to win.

"They played like a team that wanted to win. They came out and punched us in the mouth. It's become a recurring theme. When things get hard, we don't defend," Martin added.

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