A strong second-half showing, led by Nijel Pack and Mark Smith, saw the Kansas State Wildcats score the upset win Saturday.
The Kansas State Wildcats and Texas Tech Red Raiders faced off during Saturday’s early slate of games. A normally raucous Bramlage Coliseum was mostly empty, with the home team having little chance against the nationally-ranked Red Raiders. With all the odds against them, the Wildcats pulled off the upset, closing out their homestand with a 62-51 win.
Kansas State recorded their first conference win this season, behind strong showings from sophomore guard Nijel Pack and fifth-year guard Mark Smith. Pack led the Wildcats scoring, with 14 points, while Smith’s 12 second-half points and key corner 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining sealed the game.
Kansas State associate head coach Chris Lowery took post-game interview duties from head coach Bruce Weber, as Weber was feeling ill. Lowery expounded on not the win-loss importance of Saturday’s win, but the mental side as conference play is still just beginning.
“I think hopefully it’s a springboard for our guys, but we have not been down mentally after we’ve lost,” said Lowery. “There is a difference on that side of it because we’ve continuously been ready to play but not ready to finish. I think we’ve been responding all year. We hit people, they hit us back and then we come back and really make the game interesting and at the level where we can actually sneak some, but I think the biggest thing today is that we finally had a ‘not today’ approach about it.”
The Wildcat’s stellar defense held Texas Tech to one of its worst offensive performances of the season. The Red Raiders were fresh off high-profile wins over top-10 teams Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears, scoring at least 65 points in both wins. Kansas State held Texas Tech to their second-lowest scoring output this season, including only 23 points in the second half.
Junior guard Markquis Nowell arguably had the best Kansas State defensive performance, highlighted by five steals. He added seven points and nine assists, flirting with another double-double. He has now led or tied for the team lead in assists and steals in 10 of 14 games played this season.
“[Nowell]’s one of the better ones I’ve ever coached,” Lowery said. “He can generate steals and generate extra possessions. For us our thing with him is when you generate extra possessions, those have to be good possessions after the steal. And valuing the ball after you make a spectacular defensive play is something he really concentrated on today.”
Saturday’s victory marks number 400 all-time at Bramlage Coliseum, including the 41st against a nationally-ranked opponent. The Wildcats now have a 74% winning percentage in the arena that opened prior to the 1988-89 season.
Kansas State’s victory means the Wildcats have now beaten a ranked team every season since 2006-07.
The Wildcats are now 9-1 this season when out-rebounding their opponent, as the Wildcats held a 33-29 advantage on the glass Saturday. That included 9 offensive rebounds leading to 13 second-chance points.
Despite Saturday’s win, the Wildcats remain at the bottom of the Big 12 conference. They are the only team with one conference win and one of two teams to not reach ten wins this season.
Kansas State will travel to Austin, Texas to take on the ranked Texas Longhorns on Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m., CT at the Erwin Center. This is already the second time these two teams have met this season, after the Longhorns handed the Wildcats a 70-57 loss at home on Jan. 4. Texas is undefeated this season at home, totaling 11 wins this season so far.