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Wildcats De-Stripe Tigers, 80-70

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Yes, Kansas State needs Jacob Pullen to be a great team, but Saturday in an 80-70 victory over No. 20 Missouri, the Wildcats showed to be pretty good with No. 0 on the bench.

"That's why you call it a team and not players. You have a team," said K-State coach Frank Martin of the play of his bench that had a scoring stretch of 16-2 late in the game. "That's what this game is all about. I was proud of those kids for getting the job done without Jacob in there."

After Missouri tied the count at 60-all at the 6:14 mark, and with Pullen on the bench with four personal fouls, Rodney McGruder, Nick Russell and Will Spradling led a 16-2 surge holding the Tigers without a field goal for 5:30.

After the game was knotted, Spradling knocked home a trey from the corner, followed by a McGruder deuce and two free throws by Nick Russell in a span of 49 seconds.

"Our bench has been pretty good," said Martin on the play of his reserves that sparked the victory and outscored the Tiger reserves 29-18. "Every one of them impacted this game today."

No one cheered more than Pullen, who made the most of his 24 minutes by scoring 24 points.

"It was big," said Pullen, who was plagued by foul trouble plus being "a little under the weather" health wise. "Martavious (Irving) made some big plays, Nick came in, Will made shots ... they played with confidence. They played like it was our game and we were not going to give it away.

"When you have a team like that, and a team playing like ours is right now, we have a good feeling about ourselves and that makes it easier even when I'm not in the game," said Pullen.

In the overall run, Pullen scored five, McGruder and Russell each had four, and Spradling three.

While appreciative of those scoring opportunities, Martin said the key to the stretch was "... getting stops defensively. There were four or five possessions in a row where we got points, and we got stops at the other end."

In fact, after the game was 60-60, MU went nine possessions with 0-of-6 shooting, two turnovers and two free throws.

Of the run, MU coach Mike Anderson said, "We played well for 35 minutes, but not for 40. Thirty-five minutes is not good enough in this league."

For the game, K-State shot 52 percent from the field, 54 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the stripe, with the help of 12-of-13 accuracy in the second half. Of those, K-State was a perfect 8-of-8 in the final five minutes.

K-State had a remarkable 23 assists that led to its 28 field goals, plus out-boarded the Tigers, 39-24.

Stat of the Game: K-State 10, Mizzou 0 at the 17:54 mark
K-State knocked the stripes off the Tigers in the first 2:06 of the game as Jacob Pullen scored eight points and Curtis Kelly two to enable the Wildcats to rocket to a 10-zip start.

"We just got some clean looks, did a good job of running offense and the ball went through the net," said Pullen. "We were just on fire real early."

"Our guys were ready to go today," said Martin, who added that the team played like it had been practicing. "They were excited about the opportunity, but with such a young team, I never like it when we do that because we relax. But I was proud of our guys."

MU coach Mike Anderson said the early surge had to do with "emotions and enthusiasm" of K-State, and the fact that "Pullen made shots."

Pullen later added a third trey at the 17:23 mark as K-State pushed the lead to 11, 13-2.

In K-State's first six possessions, the Wildcats had put 15 points on the board with 6-of-7 shooting from the field, which included Pullen's three treys.

Pullen Update  
Jacob Pullen's career point count climbed to 2,017 making him only the second career 2,000-point man along with 2,115 from Mike Evans, and one of six all-time Big 12 2,000-point scorers.

It marked the 100th double-figure game for Pullen tying him with Rolando Blackman for first all-time for games of 10 points or more. It was also Pullen's 39th game of at least 20 points.

Pullen is now only 98 points shy of Evans' career record.

Entering the week, Pullen's career point total ranks 12th among all Division I players currently playing.

Star of the Game
K-State's bench of Martavious Irving, Nick Russell, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Will Spradling combined for 29 points, 16 rebounds, eight steals, two blocked shots and two steals with each playing at least 13 minutes.

Spradling had nine points, while Russell and Irving each had seven, and Henriquez-Roberts added six points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Quote of the Game
On his fourth foul of the game at the 7:16 mark, Pullen quipped, "I didn't know who I fouled. I thought I just dove on the ball. I guess I fouled the line (on the court) or somebody."

What the Win Does
The victory lifts K-State into a fourth-place tie with the Missouri Tigers at 8-6. With the Wildcats win over Kansas, K-State would hold the tie-breaker advantage if the tournament were to begin today.

Next week K-State plays at No. 5 Texas and at home with Iowa State; Missouri goes to Nebraska before hosting No. 2 Kansas.

Bridging Old with New
The day was one of celebration as groundbreaking ceremonies took place in the morning on K-State's new Basketball Training Facility, and at halftime salutes were made to the 1950-51 Wildcat Final Four team.

Game Notes
• Curtis Kelly's 15 points were his high for the Big 12 season. Pullen said that his teammate "... posted up like crazy." Kelly said of his own game, "They gave me the ball down low and I scored it. I owe it to Will, Nick, Rodney ... they saw that I had mismatches and they gave it to me."

• The Wildcats are now 15-0 when scoring 70 or more points.

• For the total season, MU had been averaging 83.3 points on 47 percent shooting. K-State held the Tigers to 70 points on 40 percent shooting.

• MU is 17-0 at home this year, but only 2-6 in true road games. The Tigers have dropped their last seven visits to Bramlage Coliseum.

The Rest of the Way
K-State's final two games of the regular season will be at Texas on "Big Monday" starting at 8 p.m., and on March 5 on "Senior Day" when the Wildcats play host to Iowa State in a 12:30 tipoff.