It was mostly a game to forget for the Kansas State men’s basketball team.
The Wildcats were no match for Miami during a 91-83 loss in the championship round of the Baha Mar Hoops tournament on Sunday in the Bahamas.
K-State entered the afternoon with an opportunity to win a trophy but ended the day with its second defeat of the season. For a while, it looked like the Wildcats might lose by an embarrassing margin, but they showed toughness in the second half as they battled back from a 24-point deficit and cut the score to single digits.
Former K-State guard Nijel Pack led the Hurricanes with 28 points. The Wildcats couldn’t keep up until it was too late.
Jerome Tang’s team waited too long before it found any kind of rhythm on offense, especially from 3-point range. The Wildcats went four of 28 from beyond the arc. The Hurricanes were much more efficient from the perimeter, going 12 of 24.
K-State (3-2) will try to bounce back from a humbling loss against No. 12 Miami (5-0) when it returns home for a game against Central Arkansas on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Until then, here are some takeaways from Sunday’s action:
Nijel Pack took no mercy on his former team
This shouldn’t have been a revenge game for Pack, seeing as how he left K-State two years ago on his own terms and collected a massive NIL payday with the Hurricanes as a transfer.
But he sure seemed motivated to play his former team.
Pack scored a game high 28 points thanks to a fabulous effort from the 3-point line. He fired away from the perimeter and finished with seven 3-pointers on 12 attempts.
He made treys from everywhere. It didn’t matter if he was shooting from NBA range or falling out of bounds in the corner, he kept finding ways to lob the ball through the net.
Tang never coached Pack, but he has coached against him before. He was impressed by his maturation.
“He has grown some,” the K-State coach said. “He is taller and his shoulders have filled out. They’ve done a great job with him strength and conditioning wise there.
“He was always a really good player. He looked every bit of 6-foot-1 and was just terrific against us in the first half. We did a better on him in the second half but he was special in that first half.”
It has been interesting to watch Pack since he left the Wildcats.
During his first two years of college basketball, he averaged 12.7 points as a freshman and then 17.4 points as a sophomore. He ended up earning All-Big 12 honors that season.
His stats have actually dropped with his new team. He averaged just 13.6 points per game last year. But he is experiencing more team success than he ever saw during two losing seasons under Bruce Weber.
The Hurricanes advanced to the Final Four last season and they are off to an undefeated start this season.
Pack is a big reason why, and he reminded K-State fans exactly how well he is capable of playing in this game.
No quit from the Wildcats
Sunday afternoon’s game looked like a complete mismatch when Miami raced to a 57-33 lead early in the second half.
Tang took the blame for that.
“I didn’t do a very good job,” Tang said. “I did a terrible job in the first half of putting a game plan together and it didn’t give us a chance to win.”
Still, the Wildcats refused to let this game completely get away from them and fought back furiously in the final minutes to make the Hurricanes sweat before they accepted the tournament trophy.
Thanks to 28 points from Cam Carter and a solid outing from Arthur Kaluma, the Wildcats were able to cut a 24-point lead down to seven in the final minute.
“I am thankful for my staff, because we were able to make adjustments at halftime,” Tang said. “In the second half we saw the Cats. We were more aggressive and were getting to the paint. We owned the offensive glass and it gave us a chance to win the game.”
Tang said that was a testament to the type of culture the Wildcats have built in the locker room. They never think they are out of games, even when the score suggests otherwise.
Not being at full strength caught up to K-State
The Wildcats have done an impressive job of playing without several key players this season, but an undermanned roster finally caught up to them here.
K-State was playing without Nae’Qwan Tomlin (suspension), Ques Glover (injury) and Dai Dai Ames, who had to sit out this game after he was ejected for fighting two days ago against Providence.
Beating Miami without three key players was too much to ask of K-State.
The good news is that Ames will be ready to play in K-State’s next game and Tomlin may return to the roster sooner than later now that his request for diversion has been approved following an October arrest for disorderly conduct.