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Wildcats Hope to Ride the "Energy, Emotion"

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It's over and done with, and while it only counts as a single victory in the win column, this past Monday's 84-68 win over Kansas was humongous to the Kansas State basketball year.

This isn't to say it's one of the greatest Wildcat "W's" in school history, but, yet it was.

Consider:
• It marked only K-State's fourth win ever against a No. 1 team ... and it was Kansas, a team the Wildcats have beaten now only three times in the last 45 games.

• It was the second most lopsided victory for any unranked team over a No. 1 team since rankings started over 60 years ago.

• Only once in the Sunflower Showdown history has there been a greater swing in a given year. In 1975, K-State won 66-56 in Manhattan, but lost in Lawrence 91-53 for a 48-point swing. This year it was a 40-point difference as KU won at home by 24, and the Wildcats on its home floor by 16.

• Jacob Pullen's 38 points were the 12th most ever scored by any player against any KU team, and tied for the second most by a Wildcat player. Mike Wroblewski had 46 in 1962, and Dick Knostman 38 in 1952.

• Pullen's 38 points were the most against any No. 1 ranked team since Houston's Elvin Hayes scored 39 on UCLA in 1969.

• And, Pullen is the first Wildcat to enjoy at least two wins over the Jayhawks since the days of Askia Jones, Deryl Cunningham and Anthony Beane in 1993 and 1994.

As Pullen, also a winner over Kansas in 2008, said, "It's a feeling I only had once in my life, and it's a great feeling."

In the last two years - an 81-79 OT loss in 2010 and an 85-74 loss in 2009 - Pullen said of the games against KU played in Bramlage, "We found a way to lose it."

But not this time. K-State played 40 minutes of championship basketball, and it was team-wide.
• In a two-point game, Pullen scored nine points on three consecutive possessions over a period of 73 seconds, and overall, has never played a better game.

• Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts had huge makes at the end of the half when KU made a push.

• Will Spradling had significant buckets in the first four minutes of the second half, and McGruder added two more deuces.

• Henriquez-Roberts played the game of his life with 10 points and had more rebounds (five) than the Morris twins - Marcus and Markieff - had combined (three).

• And, K-State made free throws, 13-of-14, in the second half and 24-of-29 in the game.

As KU's Mario Little said, "They just basically kicked our butts."

Today, however, that "great feeling" for the Wildcats is no more than an opportunity for the future as K-State prepares to play Oklahoma, at Nebraska, Missouri, at Texas and Iowa State to close out regular season play.

"It's a great opportunity for us. It's an opportunity to ride this streak and ride this game and keep this energy and emotion riding into the next game," said Pullen. "It's been a long season, but we've been able to get through it with the people in the locker room. If we let down now, it can mean going to a different tournament (NIT) than the one we want to play in (NCAA)."

While there have been doubters, nearly every bracketologist had K-State in the Field of 68 teams prior to Monday night. But if on the bubble prior to the game, the win anchored the Wildcats' position in postseason play with the 84-68 victory.

K-State went into the game No. 40 in the RPI, and came out No. 32 with a strength of schedule at No. 8.

To that, however, coach Frank Martin says, "We don't get wrapped up with what others say."

He would add, "Our RPI was in the 30s before the game, but people were talking about us like we were No. 97. If the tournament would have started yesterday, we would have been in, and today we're definitely an NCAA Team. (Pause) Unfortunately, they're not passing out bids today."

In looking to the future, McGruder offered, "We're not going to give it up and lay down. No matter how our season has been going, we're going to keep fighting."

Plus, Pullen reminded everyone within earshot about what happened a year ago: "We beat the No. 1 team (Texas, 71-62) and then lost our next home game (Oklahoma State, 73-69). We want to avoid that this year."