Wildcats Bounced from Big 12 Championship

Jacob Pullen

March 10, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Four Wildcats scored in double figures but fifth-seeded Colorado proved to be too much down the stretch as fourth-seeded and 19th-ranked K-State dropped an 87-75 decision to the Buffs Thursday in quarterfinal action of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championship at Sprint Center.

With the loss, the Wildcats moved to 22-10 on the season and will await their NCAA Tournament seeding and site location which will be announced on Sunday.

Thursday’s game was a back-and-forth affair and was much closer than the final score indicated. Colorado (21-12) held just a 73-72 lead with 1:32 remaining but a couple of Wildcat turnovers and converted three-pointers by Colorado extended the margin considerably in the final seconds.

Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly each had 18 points to lead K-State, while Rodney McGruder scored 11 and Will Spradling 14. Colorado’s duo of Cory Higgins and Alec Burks torched the Wildcats for 52 points while two other Buffs also scored in double figures.

Both teams went back and forth in the early stages of the second half. Two McGruder free throws put K-state ahead at 45-44 until a Colorado basket in the ensuing possession gave the Buffs a 46-45 edge at the 15:39 mark.

Kelly grabbed an offensive rebound and converted the putback and a free throw to give the Cats a 48-46 lead with 15 minutes left. Spradling nailed a three from the corner and Kelly hit one of two free throws with 14:12 to up the lead to 52-48.

A Pullen three made it 55-50 with 12 minutes left but CU battled back and eventually took a 61-57 lead. A Kelly jumper closed the margin to 61-59 with 7:30 left and another Pullen three brought the teams even at 62-62. Colorado built a 70-64 lead until a Kelly putback and a Spradling three cut it to 70-69 with 2:17 left.

K-State shot just 33 percent in the seconds half, while Colorado hit on 64 percent in the final 20 minutes.

The Cats hit their first four shots in the opening minutes of the game, including three from Kelly, as K-State grabbed an early 12-10 lead. A Will Spradling three made it 19-14 before a Jordan Henriquez-Roberts layup upped the lead to seven with under 12 minutes remaining.

Colorado cut a 23-16 Wildcat lead to 23-20 and then 25-23 before two Jamar Samuels dunks lifted the Cats to a 29-25 advantage at the 7:10 mark. But the Buffs, behind Alec Burks, charged back to take a 35-31 lead with 3:43 left.

Down 37-34, K-State scored the final five points of the half to take a two-point lead as McGruder hit a three from the corner and Spradling drained a jumper.

After opening the game hitting 10 of their first 14 shots, the Wildcats ended the half connecting on 53 percent (16-of-30) of their field goals. Pullen led the Cats in scoring with nine while Samuels and Kelly each tallied eight.