Just as it's been in Nebraska's last 11 Big 12 Conference road games, the Huskers looked like a completely different team away from the Devaney Center Wednesday against Kansas State.
Coming off a big upset win over Texas A&M on Saturday and facing a struggling Wildcat team, Nebraska came out absolutely flat in what ended in a 69-53 loss. The Huskers were out-rebounded 36-25, including 10-5 on the offensive glass, and committed a season-high 22 turnovers, their most since turning it over 20 times last year at Creighton.
Nebraska has now lost 12 straight league road games dating back to the end of the 2008-09 season, and is just 2-16 in its past 18 games outside of Lincoln.
"Whether you go on the road or you play at home, I don't care, you're energy must exceed the other team's, and from the very first possession of the ball game I thought Kansas State played much harder than we did," head coach Doc Sadler said on his post-game radio show. "That's hard for me to take. As I told our team, all the energy plays they made, you're not going to go on the road and turn the basketball over 22 times and beat a bad team, much less a team that at one time was ranked No. 2 in the country.
"It was one of those nights. We just didn't have it energy wise. Not anything that we did was good. Even when we did attempt to get a rebound it seemed we would knock the ball out of bounds. You can't give Kansas State those types of opportunities and that's what we did."
The game couldn't have started off any worse for Nebraska, as pretty much everything that it needed to keep from happening did happen.
After a basket by senior guard Drake Beranek cut Kansas State's lead to 13-10 with 12:41 left in the first half, the Wildcats came back and blew the game wide open with an 18-7 run to close the half and took a 31-17 lead into halftime.
Nebraska scored just four points in the final 9:20 of the first half, and it was out-rebounded by KSU 13-10 with seven second-chance points on four offensive rebounds. Even worse, the Huskers committed 13 turnovers in the half. They turned it over a total of seven times in Saturday's win over Texas A&M.
"If you don't get the ball inside, it's just a matter of time before bad things happen," Sadler said. "I thought the pressure that Kansas State put on us had us playing side to side, and you can't afford to do that. You've got to play towards the basket against teams like Kansas State. They put their elbow on us, and we didn't respond."
Things didn't get any better in the second half, either, as Kansas State came out and bumped its lead up to 17 with 17:40 to go on a basket by forward Curtis Kelly, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds in arguably his best all-around game of the season.
An improbable bucket by senior guard Jacob Pullen with 9:40 gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the night at 59-40 with 7:06 remaining, but Nebraska was able to at least keep it somewhat competitive with a 7-0 run capped off by a Ray Gallegos 3-pointer that made it 61-50 with 4:08 to go.
Unfortunately for the Huskers, Kansas State was able to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line down the stretch to keep NU at arm's length the rest of the game. K-State ended up going 21-of-25 from the line on the night compared to Nebraska's 12-of-16.
Senior point guard Lance Jeter scored a team-high 16 points of 7-of-13 shooting, while sophomore center Jorge Brian Diaz - who barely made to Manhattan in time for the game after being delayed by weather coming back from Puerto Rico - added 10 points. Pullen finished with a game-high 18 points and Kelly followed up with 16 for the Wildcats.
Things won't get any easier for Nebraska, as it will try to get back on track against No. 2 Kansas on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Devaney Center.
"At I told the coaches, I'm not for sure that since the Oklahoma game my first year have I been as disappointed as I am right now," Sadler said. "Now there's been two games in my five years I've been disappointed that the other team just took the fight to us. I did not see that coming at all.
"As I've said before, we've played hard and lost. Tonight, we didn't do much of anything, and that's directly responsible on me. I've got to get this team ready, and I did not get them ready to play tonight."