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Sharp-shooting North Florida fills in at Kansas State

The Kansas State Wildcats will host the North Florida Ospreys in Manhattan on Wednesday night, filling the spot originally scheduled for Morgan State, which had to cancel due to coronavirus issues.

K-State (8-3) has won its past three games and six of seven. The lone loss in that period is a 1-point loss to Marquette Dec. 8. This will be the last nonconference game before the Wildcats open Big 12 play on the road against Oklahoma Jan. 1.

The Cats have been experimenting with a two point-guard set, with both Nijel Pack and Markquis Nowell starting. They have worked well together, as each scored 18 points in the Cats’ most recent win against McNeese State.

Pack has been a starter all season, though he was replaced by Nowell when he missed three games with a concussion. But count Pack among those who appreciate what Nowell brings to the court.

“He’s just so crafty with the ball,” Pack said. “Guys gotta honor his range so they have to pick up really far out. It’s hard to stay in front of somebody when you’re 28 or 29 feet away from the basket. His decision making and finishing around the basket makes him special.

“When guys come over to help, that’s when he can make the assist. If guys don’t come over, he’s able to finish around the basket. It’s like picking your poison with him.”

Pack leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.9 points a game), with Nowell second (12.8) and leading the team with 4.9 assists a game.

North Florida (4-9) has played a difficult schedule, with six of the Ospreys’ nine losses coming to Power-5 opponents. They are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking 15th nationally in 3-point field goals made (133).

And they’re balanced, as four Ospreys (led by Emmanuel Adedoyin’s 28 treys on 52.8% shooting) have made at least 23 3-pointers this season. By comparison, only Pack (25) has more than 23 for Kansas State.

It’s strength against strength, as the Wildcats rank fourth in the country, allowing opponents to make just 24.6% from long range, with just 5.9 made per game.

North Florida has won its past two games, including a 92-44 victory over Trinity Baptist on Dec. 18.

Head coach Matthew Driscoll wasn’t completely pleased with that effort. “Coming out of finals, I’m really proud of the guys for the week,” he said, but added, “I thought that because there was no crowd these guys had to bring a bunch of energy, and I felt that we didn’t at all.”

They’ll definitely need to bring energy on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media