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OCTAGON OF DOOM, PART II

Kansas State knocks off No. 1 Kansas

POSTED February 14, 2011 11:49 p.m.
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BY MACK McCLURE

mmcclure@gbtribune.com

MANHATTAN — The Octagon of Doom had become the Octagon of Gloom this season for Kansas State, the preseason No. 3-ranked team by The Associated Press.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Kansas State, the Big 12 Conference preseason favorite, quickly plunged in The AP Top 25 rankings. The Wildcats had two players suspended and others quitting as they fell out of the poll, their season spiraling out of control.

Kansas State, it seemed, had fallen off of everyone’s radar.

On Big Monday on ESPN, before a sellout crowd at Bramlage Coliseum, Kansas State senior guard Jacob Pullen found an opportune time to play the best game of his college career — against top-ranked Kansas, Kansas State’s most bitter rival.

Pullen exploded for a career-high 38 points, including 23 in a momentum-seizing first half, as Kansas State rode the wave to an 84-68 upset of the Jayhawks.

“I was just trying to take good looks. I was just trying to be patient and not be overly aggressive and just take the shots that were given to me,” Pullen said. “My teammates did a great job of rebounding the ball, setting the screens and keeping Kansas honest so they could not overly help.”

Kansas (24-2, 9-2) was a same-day selection as the No. 1 team in the land, a distinction that could change next Monday, providing No. 2 Ohio State holds serve this week.

“That was a beatdown,” KU head coach Bill Self said. “I thought they controlled the game from the opening tip.

“Possession by possession, they beat us in every aspect of the game. We had our chances. When you look at it, we would have held them to 46 points had (Jacob) Pullen not scored 38 points.”

Pullen is the guy who had an NCAA-imposed three-game suspension earlier in the season for receiving impermissible benefits. Teammate Curtis Kelly served a six-game suspension.

Pullen is the guy who vowed earlier in the season if the Wildcats failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament, that he wouldn’t play in the NIT.

Pullen is the guy that had fallen short of his preseason All-American selection by The AP this season, a player who hadn’t helped elevate his team to the next level, like an All-American does.

Against KU on Monday night, Pullen played up to his aforementioned preseason billing.

Pullen finished 9 for 17 from the floor — including hitting 5 of 6 3-pointers — and sank 15 of 19 free throws.

“My shots were just going in and I felt good about how we were playing as a team,” Pullen said. “I felt good that we were rebounding, limiting them to one shot and getting into transition."

Pullen’s Kansas State teammates followed his lead — especially Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, the Wildcats’ sophomore 7-footer, who scored a career-high 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Henriquez-Roberts scored eight of his points in the first half, as Kansas State built a 42-33 halftime lead. Rodney McGruder also finished with 10 points for the Wildcats (17-9, 5-6), who shot 56.3 percent from the floor for the night (27 for 48) and drained 50 percent of their 3-pointers (6 for 12).

“We have been playing good offense, we just have not been making shots,” Kansas State head coach Frank Martin said. “The thing that we were real good at today was our turnovers in the first half were low and our offensive possessions, we ran offense."

Kansas was led by Tyrel Reed with 14 points and Marcus Morris added 13.

Pullen, from Maywood, Ill., supplied Kansas State’s defining moment in the game, scoring 11 straight Wildcats points during a two minute, 24-second stretch in the first half — from the 13:10 mark until 10:46 — hitting back-to-back 3s and adding also three free throws after getting fouled in the act of shooting a 3.

Kansas never recovered from Pullen’s early surge, and the Wildcats outscored KU 42-35 in the second half to pull away.

“Jake has been real good and is playing as a big-time point guard right now," Martin said.

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