No. 3 Cats Struggle, But Win
"You saw the ugly side of our team today," said K-State coach Frank Martin. "We're a group of young kids with a group of upperclassmen providing absolutely no leadership. When your best leader is a junior walk-on (Victory Ojeleye), your upperclassmen should go look in a mirror and figure that out." And Martin included Jacob Pullen with the collection of upperclassmen: "I don't think I've heard Jacob say 'Boo' for three or four days." Of the entire leadership issue, Martin said, "Leadership is not about telling someone what to do, but it's about doing your job the right way every day. When you do it every day, then you can demand that others do it." K-State led by 14, 44-30, at the half, but the visitors from South Carolina out-played the No. 3 team in the nation throughout the second half with the difference being no greater than eight points in the final 15 minutes of the game until Pullen netted two freebies with 29 seconds to go to make it 76-65. Shaking his head at the stat sheet, Pullen said, "There's not much on here not to shake your head at." Overall, he said of KSU's woes, "Our lack of focus, our lack of energy, we stood around not knowing sets ... we did a poor job of executing today." Later he added, "I don't know if we were complacent or just lethargic." It wasn't pretty, but as Pullen said, "At the end of the day we got the 'W'." PC coach Gregg Nibert said of the near win, "We're excited, but not happy." STAR OF THE GAME: Rodney McGruder's eyes lit up against the zone of the Blue Hose as the Wildcat sophomore scored 10 in the first half and 13 for the game. McGruder hit three treys, plus had three assists and no turnovers. PULLEN'S GAME: Jacob Pullen didn't score his first points until the 6:14 mark of the first half, but still found a way to lead the team in scoring with 15, on 4-of-12 shooting. SUB OF THE GAME: Victor Ojeleye played just eight minutes, but had a pivotal offensive rebound and put-back, plus another steal that led to a 12-foot floater when PC had narrowed the difference into single digits. In addition, the 6-foot-6 junior played the tough defense on Al'Lonzo Coleman, the leading scorer for the Blue Hose. "He did everything he's supposed to do and did everything that he does in practice every day," said Pullen of Ojeleye's effort. "Frank plays him because he does the things we need to win." On playing, Ojeleye said, "I just think it's a privilege to do this every day, and it's something to take great pride in when you get the opportunity whether its two seconds or 26 minutes." STATS OF THE GAME:• Both teams had 33 rebounds, but 16 of KSU's came at the offensive end that led to a 20-6 advantage in second-chance points.• K-State turned it over just four times while forcing 18. K-State had a 19-2 advantage in points after turnovers.• The 'Cats had five twin-figure scorers - Pullen with 15, McGruder with 13, while Wally Judge, Martavious Irving and Jamar Samuels each had 10. NOTES:• PC is in its fourth year of Division I basketball. Four years ago it played 25 road games and five at home. "This (atmosphere) was awesome, but our leadership was pretty awesome," said Nibert.• K-State has won 33 of its last 40 games played in the month of November.• K-State entered the game hitting .517 from the foul line. Thursday the 'Cats were 9-of-19.• The 'Cats have been ranked for 16 straight weeks dating back to last year. That's the longest run since the 1972-73 season.• From the Big 12, league teams have an 83-game win streak in non-conference home games. Since the start of last year, the league is 128-1 in non-league home games. UP NEXT: K-State, 3-0, plays in the CBE Classic in the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Monday against 2-1 and No. 11 Gonzaga in an 8:30 p.m. tipoff. The game will be on ESPN2. Tuesday, the Wildcats will play either No. 1 Duke or Marquette.