By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team steps out of conference play on Saturday to take on Kansas State in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. on ESPNU inside the SJB Pavilion.
Ole Miss (10-10, 2-6 SEC) is coming off of a 64-55 loss to Arkansas on Wednesday night. The were led by Matthew Murrell with 14 points.
The Razorbacks held Ole Miss to 34.5 percent shooting.
Kansas State comes into Oxford at 10-9 overall and 2-6 in Big 12 play, with a current NET rating of 68 after posting a 3-9 record against Quad 1 (2-7) and Quad 2 (1-2), and a perfect 7-0 record against Quad 3 (1-0) and Quad 4 (6-0). The Wildcats played a solid non-conference schedule, battling No. 13 Arkansas and No. 14 Illinois to identical eight-point losses at 72-64. K-State also notched a win over Wichita State (65-59) and narrowly toppled Marquette, falling 64-63 on Dec. 8. In conference action, the two Wildcat victories were big ones, as K-State consecutively took down ranked foes No. 19 Texas Tech on Jan. 15 (62-51) and No. 23 Texas (66-65) on Jan. 18. K-State almost tallied a third straight ranked win, but fell by just three to No. 7 Kansas on Jan. 22, 78-75. The Wildcats’ road does not look any easier, as K-State owns the NCAA’s 10th-toughest future strength of schedule at a winning percentage of .705.
The Wildcats possess a formidable perimeter defense, leading the Big 12 and ranking fifth in the NCAA three-point defense (.266). K-State also leads the Big 12 in fewest turnovers per game at just 11.5.
Leading the way for Kansas State is Nijel Pack, who averages 16.5 points (No. 4 Big 12), 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 45.2 percent overall, 42.1 percent from three at an average of 3.1 threes per contest, as well as 88.6 percent from the free throw line. His threes per game average of 3.1 ranks second in the Big 12 and 27th in the NCAA. Markquis Nowell also averages double-digit scoring at 12.2 points, but his Big 12-leading 2.4 steals per game ranks ninth in the nation, and his 5.3 assists per game ranks second in the conference and 26th in the NCAA.
Ole Miss holds a 3-2 advantage all-time against Kansas State, with the series tied 1-1 both in Oxford and Manhattan, and the Rebels holding a 1-0 edge in neutral site games after a Nov. 20, 2009 victory over the Wildcats in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That stands as the last Rebel win over K-State, however, as the Wildcats have taken the last two meetings in 2013 (61-58) and 2016 (69-64), both part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge that began in 2012-13.