By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - As Jim Wooldridge once said after defeating the University of Kansas, "Can you believe it?"
The signs in Bramlage Coliseum said it all Monday night:
"Never Say Never"
"Keep The Faith"
A basketball team won by 16 points on ESPN's "Big Monday" telecast, but it wasn't the team that the experts were expecting.
Kansas State 84, Kansas 68.
That's seventh-place in the Big 12 K-State 84, No. 1 in the nation KU 68.
Jordan Henriquez-Roberts called the scene of the student body storming the floor "beautiful," and Jacob Pullen added, "It was a wonderful feeling on that court."
But the feeling was not good for KU coach Bill Self, "Let's call it like it is, that was a beat down. I thought they controlled the game from the opening tip."
The 16-point win, was the largest in the series dating back to a 70-53 17-pointer in Manhattan during the 1982 season in Ahearn Field House. The win also snapped a run of 42 KU wins over K-State in the last 44 games.
"Those kids have been great," coach Frank Martin said of his Wildcats. "I'm proud of the way they've stayed united and continued to get better."
K-State played 40 minutes of possession-by-possession basketball on both ends of the floor. It's best basketball of the year, for sure, against the best team in the nation, and a team the Wildcats had lost to by 24 points just two weeks ago.
Check out these stats that tell the story of how dominating the Wildcats were:
• KU entered play averaging a league high 83.9 points a game, but scored just 68.
• KU entered play allowing just 64 points per game, but gave up 84.
• KU had been winning games by a 19.9 point per game margin, but lost this one by 16.
• KU had been leading the nation with a 52.3 shooting accuracy, but was held to 44 percent.
• KU had been leading the Big 12 in 3-pointers at .391, but netted only .200 on this night.
• KU had been averaging 18.6 assists per game with a plus-1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio, but on this night had 18 turnovers to just 11 assists.
• The Morris twins - Marcus and Markieff - had been averaging 29.1 points between them, but on this night had just 16.
And on, and on, and on.
Self simply said of his own team, "That wasn't a very good basketball team tonight."
And K-State was a good team with the offense kick-started by a nasty defense.
"We tried to slow them down because they are so good when they play fast," said Martin. "When they get in a rhythm, they're a load to deal with. Our guys were sharp."
And then on offense, Martin said, "We've been playing good offense, but just haven't been making shots. We had a low number of turnovers and in our offense, we ran offense. We didn't settle by taking bad shots, or making lazy cuts, we ran offense. And then at the end of the day we made shots."
At the end of the night, K-State was 5-6 in the league and 17-9 overall; Kansas went home 9-2 and 24-2, and in all likelihood its run of six straight Big 12 titles will end as it falls two games in back of Texas with five games to play.
Quote of the Game
Taking a positive spin to the game, Self quipped, "The positive thing is we held them to 46 points if Jacob didn't play. But our play against him was very poor and he was fabulous."
Self then added of Pullen, "He's playing on national TV against the No. 1 team, although we didn't deserve it, and he has 38 points against his arch-rival, but defers not to shoot the ball to get 40 at the end of the game. That's class. That kid had it going on tonight."
Stat of the Game
Jacob Pullen's 38 points were the second-most any individual has scored against a No. 1 team since Houston's Elvin Hayes tallied 39 against UCLA in 1968. Pullen's 38 points were the 12th most scored against KU.
For Pullen, it was a career-high bettering last year's 34-point performance against BYU in the NCAA Tournament.
Frank Martin had to wonder where this Kansas State team has been in the first half as it stormed to a 30-16 advantage at the 8:36 mark by making 9-of-15 from the field as a team, and Jacob Pullen had 14 of the Wildcats' 30 points.
During one stretch, Pullen netted two 3-balls, plus three free throws on three consecutive possessions, and would end the half with 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting overall and draining all three of his long-range shots.
"In the first half Jake was just in an attack mode on offense and we milked him," said Martin. "And then Jacob, with the first half he had, just gave everyone else a lot of confidence and we had all kinds of guys step up and make plays on both ends of the floor."
Of his first half, Pullen said, "My shots were just going in, but I felt good how we were playing as a team. I felt good that we were rebounding and I felt good other people were stepping up instead of just standing and staring."
Kansas closed the difference to six with 2:16 remaining in the half, but Rodney McGruder and Henriquez-Roberts had field goals, and Pullen a free throw to up the margin to nine at the half, 42-33. Henriquez-Roberts hit all four of his shots for eight points, plus led the team with four rebounds in 12 minutes of play in the half.
On withstanding KU's run, Martin said, "We played like a team that's grown up."
K-State, which made just 31 percent from the field and 58 percent from the line at Colorado on Saturday, made 54 percent from the field and 73 percent (11-of-15) from the line in the first 20 minutes.
In the half, KU's Markieff Morris was held without a point or a rebound in eight minutes of play due to two early fouls.
Star of the Game
Jacob Pullen scored 38 points, which included 23 in the first half, which was the highest total for any single half of basketball in his K-State career. (He had 21 in the first half against Texas Tech last year).
"I just tried to take good looks. I tried to be patient and not overly aggressive," said Pullen of his play that also included five assists, two steals and a blocked shot. "I tried to take the shots given to me. My teammates did a great job, and my coaches did a great job drawing things to get me shots."
Pullen netted 9-of-17 from the field, plus 15-of-19 from the foul stripe. Oh yes, he was also true on five of his six 3-pointers.
"Jake's been playing real good for a while. He's playing like a big-time point guard right now," said Martin. "I'm happy he had that type of game tonight."
"We gave him too much leeway early and he was able to get shots off," said KU's Tyrel Reed. "When you get into a rhythm as a scorer like he is, it is hard to stop him after that."
Star of the Game (not named Pullen)
Jordan Henriquez-Roberts scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, plus had five rebounds.
"He played big," said Pullen of his 7-foot teammate. "He understood what he needed to do. When he plays like that we're a hard team to beat. He defended, he rebounded and offensively he took what the defense gave him. When he plays with that type of energy it makes him hard to guard."
• Frank Martin becomes the first coach since Dana Altman in 1993 and 1994 to record two wins over Kansas. The other came with Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, 84-75, in January of 2008.
• Martin has five wins over teams ranked in the Top 11 during the last four years.
• On hand for the game were former K-Stater and Super Bowl hero Jordy Nelson, who was recognized at midcourt during a first half media timeout.
• The Wildcats are now 4-14 in games versus No. 1 ranked teams.
K-State stays in Bramlage Coliseum to play host to Oklahoma in a 3 p.m. start on Saturday.