AMES, Iowa (AP) — Down one with the ball and shot clock turned off, Kansas State coach Frank Martin called a play his team hadn’t run all year.
Predictably, the Wildcats didn’t execute the way Martin drew it up. But as he’s done so often in his brilliant career, Jacob Pullen was there to bail them out.
Pullen sliced through traffic for a layup with 2.6 seconds left and Kansas State rallied past Iowa State 86-85 Saturday for its first Big 12 road win.
Pullen scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to lead the Wildcats (16-8, 4-5 Big 12), who’ve won two straight following a humbling 90-66 loss at rival Kansas last weekend.
Pullen nearly lost the ball before tossing a one-hander off the glass, capping a stellar clutch performance from Kansas State’s senior leader.
“Jacob did what good players do, they make a play. It’s not always the X and the O. It’s sometimes the player within the X and the O that makes a play that makes the difference,” Martin said.
Pullen brought the Wildcats within 81-80 with 2:20 left, and his 3 with 53 seconds left cut the Cyclones’ lead to 85-84. Diante Garrett then missed a layup, giving Kansas State one more chance to put the ball in Pullen’s hands.
“A lot of times we get down on the road and we panic and take bad shots. Just wanted to settle down and take the shots that were given to me,” Pullen said. “It was a win that we needed — a win that we needed a lot.”
Iowa State’s Jamie Vanderbeken, who drilled a long turnaround 3 at the buzzer to beat Creighton earlier this season, missed a similar shot at the buzzer.
Garrett had 23 points, Scott Christopherson added 22 and Vanderbeken had 18 for Iowa State (14-10, 1-8), which has lost two Big 12 games in overtime and two others by a point in the final seconds.
“I was proud of them for their effort (Saturday), for fighting all game to give us a chance. We made big plays. Diante was outstanding; Scott made big shots,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We gave ourselves a chance, and that’s what you have to do. The ball just didn’t bounce our way at the end.”
Kansas State held a slim lead for much of the second half, and Pullen’s first 3-pointer, with 11:52 left, put the Wildcats ahead 66-60.
Garrett quickly pulled the Cyclones within one before Devon Peterson answered with a 3 and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts threw down a one-handed dunk to give Kansas State a 71-65 lead.
The Cyclones went on a 9-2 run, though, and they took their first lead of the second half on Vanderbeken’s jumper with 6:09 left.
The Wildcats had been nailing 3s all day and finished with a season-high 14, but they missed four in a row before Vanderbeken drilled one from the top of the key to give Iowa State its biggest lead to that point, 79-73, with 3:40 left.
But Pullen scored Kansas State’s final six points, handing the Cyclones yet another excruciating loss.
“He’s a heck of a player. He’s best in the clutch. That’s what makes him a truly great player. He made a great play down the stretch,” Hoiberg said.
Iowa State played without freshman forward Calvin Godfrey, who was sitting out the second game of the three-game suspension for violating team rules.
Godfrey’s absence left the Cyclones with just seven scholarship players available, exacerbating a lack of depth has been most evident since the start of Big 12 play.
Iowa State has four players averaging at least 32 minutes a game in league play, and Kansas State did its best to attack the depleted Cyclones.
“We really wanted to go deep into our bench and try to run them as much as we could, try to tire them out,” Kansas State’s Will Spradling said.
Kansas State was coming one of its best defensive efforts of the season, forcing Nebraska into 22 turnovers and holding the Huskers to just 53 points in a 16-point win in Manhattan.
The Wildcats let Iowa State shoot 56 percent, but Kansas State got 14 points from Spradling, 13 from Nick Russell and 10 each from Jamar Samuels and Martavious Irving.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE BASKETBALL
KANSAS ST. 86, IOWA ST. 85
KANSAS ST. (16-8)
Pullen 8-16 3-4 21, Southwell 1-2 0-0 2, McGruder 1-6 0-0 3, Kelly 3-5 0-1 6, Samuels 3-6 3-3 10, Peterson 2-2 0-0 5, Irving 4-4 0-2 10, Ojeleye 0-0 0-0 0, Russell 5-9 0-0 13, Henriquez-Roberts 1-6 0-2 2, Spradling 5-9 0-0 14. Totals 33-65 6-12 86.
IOWA ST. (14-10)
Palo 1-2 7-9 10, Ejim 2-3 2-2 6, Garrett 8-18 6-6 23, Christopherson 8-11 4-4 22, Vanderbeken 6-8 3-3 18, Railey 1-1 0-0 2, Anderson 2-7 0-0 4, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-50 22-24 85.
Halftime—Kansas St. 44-40. Three-point goals—Kansas St. 14-27 (Spradling 4-8, Russell 3-6, Irving 2-2, Pullen 2-5, Peterson 1-1, Samuels 1-2, McGruder 1-3), Iowa St. 7-14 (Vanderbeken 3-4, Christopherson 2-4, Palo 1-1, Garrett 1-4, Anderson 0-1). Fouled out—Kelly, Railey. Rebounds_Kansas St. 30 (McGruder 6), Iowa St. 26 (Anderson 8). Assists—Kansas St. 17 (Pullen 8), Iowa St. 15 (Garrett 8). Total fouls—Kansas St. 21, Iowa St. 17. Technicals—Kelly, Railey. A—12,411.