7/7 'Cats Hang On For 91-87 Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Chris Merriewether hit two clutch free throws to break up an 87-87 tie with 26 seconds remaining and Denis Clemente converted an easy layup following a steal from Jacob Pullen as the seventh-ranked Wildcats hung on for a 91-87 win over Nebraska Wednesday night.

Junior forward Dominique Sutton was huge for the Wildcats, tying his career high with 21 points and finishing just shy of a double-double with nine rebounds in the contest. Sutton was 3-of-3 behind the arc after never hitting a 3-pointer in any other game this season. He was also an impressive 8-of-10 from the free-throw line and finished the game with two steals.

The backcourt tandem of Clemente and Pullen combined for 39 points in the game, with Clemente's 21 points tying Sutton for team-high honors. Clemente started the game off cold, hitting only 1-of-7 from the field in the first half before catching fire in the second, where he converted on 5-of-7 from the floor. Pullen dished out six assists and two steals to go along with his 18 point effort.

Both teams pushed the tempo in the early going, with K-State (21-4, 8-3 Big 12) pushing out to an 11-10 lead at the first media timeout behind four points each from Luis Colon and Curtis Kelly. Nebraska (13-13, 1-10) took its first lead of the game, 15-14, at the 13:25 mark following a layup by Brandon Richardson. The Cornhuskers extended their lead to as much as 10 at the 7:44 mark, but the Wildcats battled back, ending the first half on an 18-9 run that was capped off by a Pullen layup to send K-State to the locker room trailing by just one, 40-39.

Nebraska came out on fire in the first half, shooting a blistering 14-of-22 (63.6 percent) from the field, while converting 4-of-8 (50.0 percent) on shots from behind the arc. K-State wasn't struggling on the offensive end either, hitting on 13-of-33 (43.4 percent) from the field, and hitting on 11-of-14 (78.6 percent) from the charity stripe.

Nebraska came out firing again after the break, starting the second half with an 11-3 run to pull ahead by nine at the 16:57 mark, 51-42. K-State then turned up the heat on defense, holding the Cornhuskers scoreless for the next 6:31 while putting together a 15-0 run of its own. In the midst of that run, the Wildcats regained the lead for the first time since the 13:25 mark in the first half when Denis Clemente hit two free throws off of a technical foul called on Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler with 12:02 left to play, 53-51.

K-State continued to build upon its second half momentum, stretching the lead to 10 points with 3:00 minutes to play, but Nebraska wouldn't go away quietly.

Late in the game, the Cornhuskers started fouling the Wildcats, hoping to claw their way back off of K-State missed free throws. The Wildcats didn't cooperate with that plan, converting on 14-of-14 shots from the foul line in the last five minutes. However, Nebraska caught fire from 3-point range, hitting an astounding 6-of-6 attempts in the last 2:36 of the game, the final two of which followed back-to-back turnovers by the Wildcats, tying up the score at 87 all. K-State was able to outlast the late Nebraska surge though, closing out the four-point victory with the Merriewether free throws and Clemente layup.

The game was won at the line for the Wildcats, who finished the game converting an impressive 32-of-40 (80.0 percent). K-State was able to get to the line for 17 more attempts than Nebraska managed, and the Wildcats took advantage, bettering their season average of 65 percent by 15.

K-State returns to action this Saturday as it travels to Norman, Okla., for a matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners. Tipoff for the contest is set for 5 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.