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Mega-Game for Wildcats, Cornhuskers

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It's interesting how Kansas State and Nebraska have ended up here in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 Conference six weeks into the year, and with four games yet to play entering tonight's game at 8 in the Devaney Center on ESPNU.

• K-State was picked to win the league but finds itself at 6-6; Nebraska was selected to be 10th, but finds itself at 6-6.

• K-State is 5-1 at home, but just 1-5 on the road; Nebraska is 5-1 at home, but just 1-5 on the road.

• K-State has two losses to Colorado, but a win over No. 1 Kansas; Nebraska has a loss to Texas Tech, but wins over No. 3 Texas and No. 13 Texas A&M (at the time of the games).

• K-State started the year 1-4 in league play, but has won five of its last seven; Nebraska opened 3-6, but is on a current three-game run.

Nebraska lost at K-State 69-53 back on Feb. 2, when it shot just 25 percent from the field, was out-boarded 32-24, committed 22 fouls and 22 turnovers.

At the end of the night, NU coach Doc Sadler said, "We didn't compete. Frank had his team ready, and I didn't. With all the effort areas in the game that you can imagine, they won every one of them."

K-State coach Frank Martin says that 40 minutes of Cornhusker hoops will be remembered tonight: "This will be way harder. It will be day and night. I promise you that turnover stuff won't happen again.

"I told our team that this will be the hardest game they've played all year. They're (NU) a good team at home ... a good team, period," said Martin. "Doc has had our game circled since the day he left town. He's a ferocious competitor. We have to prepare to be as good and as sharp as we can be to have a chance to win."

K-State has won four games in a row over the Big Red, which includes a 76-57 victory last year in Lincoln. But prior to that game, Nebraska won the previous three Wildcat visits to the Devaney Center by margins of 18, 7 and 11 points.

"We've found ways to lose there a couple years that I've been here," said senior guard Jacob Pullen. He added, "We understand this league is very competitive. Anybody can lose to anybody on a given night. You have to stay focused."

One of those games was Saturday when a then 5-6, 17-8 Nebraska defeated an 11-0, 23-3 and No. 3 ranked Texas team, 70-67. It was NU's highest win over a ranked team since defeating No. 3 Missouri in the 1994 Big 8 Tournament.

But as Sadler said immediately after the Texas  game, "As good as we feel right now, we're going to have to play as good if not a little better to win Wednesday night. You're talking about a team that completely destroyed us."

Defense has keyed the Cornhuskers success as they have held 15 opponents to below 60 points, and in league play eight foes have been held to under 70 points. NU has allowed just 59.2 points per game, which leads the Big 12 and ranks 11th in the nation.

"They give you nothing easy," said Martin. "They give you no free opportunities."

For the record, Nebraska is 16-1 at home with the lone loss being a 20-pointer to Kansas. The school record for home victories in a single season is 17.

"Texas A&M is a pretty good team and went in there (Devaney Center) and got spanked; Texas is a pretty good team and went in there and got spanked," Martin said.

One More Big Difference
A "big" difference from the first K-State - NU game is the roster addition of Andre Almeida from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"Big?" Almeida is 6-foot-11, 310 pounds. The NU junior is averaging 5.6 points on .612 shooting and controlling 3.5 rebounds per game.

The Rest of the Way
Texas and Kansas have wrapped up Big 12 Championship byes, but 8-4 Texas A&M, 7-5 Missouri, plus 6-6 K-State, Nebraska and Baylor are battling for the two remaining bye positions.

• Texas A&M (8-4): OU, at BU, at KU, Tech
• Missouri (7-5): BU, at KSU, at NU, KU
• K-State (6-6): at NU, MU, at UT, ISU
• Nebraska (6-6): KSU, at ISU, MU, at CU
• Baylor (6-6): at MU, A&M, at OSU, UT
• Colorado (5-7): at TT, UT, at ISU, NU

Bracketology
As of Monday, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has five teams in the NCAA Tournament: Texas as a No. 1 seed, Kansas as a No. 2, Texas A&M a No. 6, Missouri at No. 7 and K-State a No. 9.

Baylor was on the list of "First Four Out" and Nebraska on the "Next Four Out" list.

Real Time RPI numbers through Sunday had KU No. 1, Texas No. 7, Texas A&M No. 27, Missouri No. 28, K-State No. 31, Oklahoma State No. 59 and Baylor No. 78.

Pullen Wins Robertson Award
Jacob Pullen was named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Tuesday after averaging 32.5 points in wins over No. 1 Kansas and Oklahoma last week.  The weekly honor is presented by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

Pullen, who was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks on Monday, becomes the second Wildcat in as many seasons to earn the USBWA's national honor.  Denis Clemente was a recipient last year.

Pullen averaged 32.5 points on 48.6 percent shooting (17-of-35), including 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from 3-point range, in the wins over top-ranked Kansas and Oklahoma with 4.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 rebounds in 37 minutes per game.  He also connected on 85.2 percent (23-of-27) from the free throw line.

Pullen's Career Numbers Among the Best
Of all the Division I players in the game today, K-State's Jacob Pullen ranks 12th in career scoring with his 1,966 points, which is second-highest in Wildcat history.

Here's a look at the top career scorers currently playing D-I basketball:
1. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra, 2,438
2. Andrew Gourelock, College of Charleston, 2,372
3. Jimmer Fredette, BYU, 2,265
4. Kyle Singler, Duke, 2,221
5. LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, 2,217
6. Randy Culpepper, UTEP, 2,183
7. Donald Sims, Appalachian State, 2,112
8. John Holland, Boston, 2,099
9. Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech, 2,098
10. Talor Battle, Penn State, 2,056
11. Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, 2,053
12. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, 1,966

Up Next
K-State entertains Missouri in an 11 a.m. start on Saturday. The game will be telecast by ESPN.