MANHATTAN, Kan. -- After waiting 48 years to get ranked this high, No. 7 Kansas State almost got ambushed by the worst team in the Big 12.
Unheralded Nebraska, coming off a 40-point loss at Texas (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP), shot almost 60 percent and wiped out a nine-point lead in the final minutes with three consecutive 3-pointers. But Denis Clemente, Dominique Sutton and Jacob Pullen made plays at the end and the Wildcats escaped Wednesday night with a 91-87 victory.
"We played good defense some possessions and they still made tough shots," said Pullen, who pulled off a key defensive play in the final seconds. "But you let a team get into a rhythm, and it's a long night. They made shot after shot after shot. Toward the end of the game ... they just shot rainbows and they were falling into the rim."
Sutton had 21 points and Clemente scored 18 of his 21 in the second half, including a clinching bucket in the final seconds for the Wildcats (21-4, 8-3 Big 12).
"We were just hitting shots," said Anderson, who was 5 for 6 from beyond the arc. "Coach gets all the credit for this one. The strategy, what we were doing. We were just trying some different things, and we got open, and our guys knocked the shots down, and that's a credit to the coaching and people for hitting their shots."
Riding the crest of their highest national ranking since 1962, the Wildcats trailed by 10 in the first half and were down nine early in the second to a team that had won only once since starting conference play in early January.
Finally, they seemed safe when four consecutive free throws by Martavious Irving gave the Wildcats an 87-78 lead. But then Nebraska's "rainbows" began dropping through the rim. Lance Jeter and Ryan Anderson made 3-pointers, Pullen dribbled out of bounds and the Huskers inbounded with 42 seconds to go. Anderson's fifth 3-pointer tied it at 87.
Jeter drew his fifth foul when he draped himself around Chris Merriewether with 24.2 seconds to go. Merriewether made both foul shots to break the tie, and then Pullen atoned for his earlier turnover by intercepting a pass and feeding Clemente streaking down the court for the final bucket of the hard-fought and surprisingly close game.
"We were just trying to keep everyone in front of us," Pullen said. "We tried to switch off any type of screen. It was a deflection somewhere, and they picked it up and he just threw it to me. No one was in front of Denis and I just threw it out to him."
Clemente, held to just three points on 1 for 7 shooting in the first half, hit seemingly backbreaking 3-pointers on two consecutive possessions as Kansas State tried vainly to put the game out of reach.
An early 3-pointer by Clemente brought the Wildcats even at 51-all. Then they finally regained the lead at the 12:01 mark when a technical foul was called on Nebraska's bench and Clemente made both free throws to make it 53-51.
But all night long, the Huskers refused to wilt.
"We got lucky and hit some key big shots," Jeter said. "If we have a chance to run, we're going to do it, and obviously we did tonight. We just came up a little short. It's frustrating, but at the end, we're going to keep playing until there are no more games left."
Kansas State scuffled with miserable 13 for 30 shooting throughout the first half and twice fell behind by as much as 10 points.
Pullen scored the last eight points of the first half for Kansas State, helping trim Nebraska's 10-point lead to just 40-39 at intermission.
But Nebraska grabbed the momentum again in the second half, quickly building a 51-42 lead starting with Richardson's 3-pointer and Jeter's one-handed runner.
Sutton jump-started a big Kansas State run with a 3-pointer and capped it with a layup that gave the Wildcats a 57-51 lead.
"We did a lot of things right to go from down nine to up six," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "And then we went right back into the trap that we were in, where we just floated around, lost assignments and watched guys shoot the basketball."
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