By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - The phrase Nebraska basketball normally doesn't strike fear to those that follow the game, but the word from Kansas State coach Frank Martin is, "respect them."
Don't believe it, you say? Ask Texas A&M.
While the "Big Red" football gladiators have the famed "Black Shirts" on defense, coach Doc Sadler has his own on-the-court version.
This past Saturday the Cornhuskers defeated the No. 13 Aggies, 57-48. The 48 points were 23 fewer than the Aggies have been averaging and it marked the 12th time this year that NU has held a team to under 40 percent shooting.
"They do not give you an easy basket," said Martin. "Our objective is to not give up an easy basket and we gave up 13 uncontested layups to Kansas. If you get three uncontested shots against Nebraska, you're lucky.
"They don't turn the ball over, so you don't get points in transition. That forces you to score through their defense," said Martin.
Overall this year, Nebraska ranks first in the league in scoring defense (56.5), first in field goal defense (.365) and fourth in 3-point defense (.301).
The numbers have helped NU to 15 wins, which equals the number of "Ws" all of last year, and a 3-3 Big 12 record is one more victory than the Cornhuskers had through16 starts last year.
Nebraska's league wins have been at home over Iowa State, Colorado and Texas A&M, while the losses have been on the road at Missouri, Kansas and Texas Tech.
Of those six games, three - one win and two losses - have been decided by three points or less, which includes a 63-60 setback in Allen Fieldhouse.
The Task at Hand
With a current record of 2-5 in the Big 12 and nine games to play, conference history says that the Wildcats will need to go 7-2 the rest of the way, and certainly no less than 6-3, to feel pretty certain of an NCAA Dance Card.
To that, Martin says, "We're trying to figure out how to beat Nebraska. We're not wrapped up in how many wins we need. We're worried about how we will practice (on Tuesday) and how well we play Wednesday. That's all we can worry about.
"At the end of the year you either have enough wins, or you don't," Martin said. "If you don't, you better go win the conference tournament; if you do, you still better go win the conference tournament."
Cornhuskers to Watch
It's interesting, and unusual, that Nebraska does not have a scorer among the Top 20 in the league, and, it does not have a rebounder among the Top 20.
Lance Jeter, a 6-3 senior guard, leads the team in scoring with a 10.6 average, while 6-11 sophomore Jorge Brian Diaz averages 10.5 points and a team-high 4.6 rebounds. Jeter also averages 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals with both figures ranking fourth in the Big 12.
Also unusual is the fact that while only ranking 11th in the league in scoring (68.8), Nebraska's .477 shooting percentage ranks third highest in the Big 12. From afar, the Huskers are a chilly .299, which is last in the league.
Getting a bit of court time against Kansas on Saturday were 6-3 junior Devon Peterson and 6-1 sophomore Juevol Myles.
Peterson played six minutes, scored four points, plus had a rebound, assist and steal; Myles played four minutes, scored three points and had an assist.
While each has improved, Martin says with a smile, "They're lost. Devon hasn't played structured basketball in three years. He's better, but he's lost.
"With Juevol, the way we play with our point guard is the complete opposite of what he has ever done," said Martin. "But I couldn't ask more from him. He doesn't understand what we're doing, and he doesn't play as much as he would like to play, but he has an unbelievable attitude."
Kansas State travels Saturday to Iowa State for a 12:30 p.m., tipoff in Hilton Coliseum.
Next week, the Wildcats go to Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 12, before returning home for a "Big Monday" contest against Kansas on Feb. 14.