5/5 K-State Returns Home To Face Alcorn State Monday

Senior Curtis Kelly paced the squad with 15 points against Washington State.

Dec. 5, 2010

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5/5 Kansas State (7-1, 0-0 Big 12)
vs. Alcorn State (0-6, 0-0 SWAC)

Date: Monday, December 6, 2010  |  Tipoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Manhattan, Kan.  |  Arena: Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)  | 
Live Stats: www.k-statesports.com  |  Internet: ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com
Television: FOX Sports Kansas City (Ben Boyle, play-by-play; Stan Weber, analyst; Brian McCann, producer)  | 
Channels: DirecTV 672, Dish 449
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, play-by-play; Matt Walters, analyst)  | 
Satellite Radio: n/a   
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International ‘93) is 79-33 (.705) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school. 
Alcorn State - Larry Smith (Alcorn State ‘80) is 8-60 (.118) in his third season as a head coach and at the school.
Series: First meeting  |  Martin vs. Smith:  First meeting  |   K-State vs. SWAC:  6-0  |  Last time vs. SWAC:  W, Texas Southern, 84-60, 11/26/10
Last Time Out:  K-State won at Washington State, 63-58, on Friday, while Alcorn State lost at Southern Miss, 100-71, on Wednesday.
Rankings: K-State is No. 5 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls, while Alcorn State is not ranked in the Division II poll.
Tickets: Sold out. 

K-State returns home for tilt with Alcorn State Monday
No. 5/5 Kansas State (7-1) makes a brief return home between road games on Monday night, as the Wildcats play host to Alcorn State (0-6) at Bramlage Coliseum at 7 p.m.  The game will be broadcast regionally on FOX Sports Kansas City with Ben Boyle (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call.  It will also be available nationally on ESPN Full Court and ESPN3.com.  The Wildcats have won 27 consecutive home non-conference games dating back to an overtime loss to Oregon on Nov. 29, 2007, while the squad boasts a 30-1 mark in all non-conference home games under head coach Frank Martin.  The 27-game streak is the longest in school history since the team rattled off 38 consecutive wins against non-conference teams at home from 1971-78, while it is the longest in Bramlage Coliseum history (surpassing a 24-game streak from 1995-2000).  The Wildcats are 56-3 (.949) at home against non-conference opponents since the 2004-05 season.   

K-State enters Monday’s contest having won 12 consecutive games in December, which includes a perfect 7-0 mark a season ago.  The last loss in the month came at Oregon on Dec. 7, 2008.  The 12-game winning streak is the longest in December since the team won 16 in a row between 1946-48.  Overall, the team is 31-7 in the month since 2004-05, including an impressive 16-3 mark under Frank Martin.  The team already capped the month of November by earning their school-record sixth win and posting their highest winning percentage (.857).  The six November wins surpassed the efforts of the 1998-99 (5-2), 2007-08 (5-2), 2008-09 (5-2) and 2009-10 (5-1) squads, while the team recorded its best winning percentage for the second consecutive season (eclipsing the .833 in 2009-10). 

This will be the first meeting with Alcorn State in school history and the seventh overall with a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) team in school history.  This is the second meeting with a SWAC school this season after the Wildcats defeated Texas Southern, 84-60, at home on Nov. 26.  The team is 6-0 all-time against SWAC opponents with an average margin of victory of 22.2 points in those six victories.

Kansas State is coming off a hard-fought 63-58 win at Washington State on Friday night before a sold-out crowd at Beasley Coliseum.  The win evened the Wildcats’ all-time record to 2-2 in the final Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game, which began in 2007.  The team swept the two-game series with Cougars in the Series after posting an 86-69 win last season at home.  The victory was not only significant because it was the first of the season, but it was the first against a Pac-10 opponent on the road in nearly 30 years, snapping a nine-game losing skid.  The last win at a Pac-10 venue prior to Friday night was at Arizona, 55-53, on Dec. 6, 1980.  It was also the first win in three tries against WSU in Pullman.

The Wildcats, which held a lead as high as 10 points in the first half, survived a late rally by the Cougars.  WSU took its first lead since the 14:32 mark of the first half with a lay-up by DeAngelo Casto with 2:34 remaining.  However, junior Jamar Samuels tied the game with his second free throw just 18 seconds later and senior Curtis Kelly gave the squad the lead for good with a lay-up set up by fellow senior Jacob Pullen with 1:55 left.  The team then converted on 5-of-6 free throws in last 16 seconds, including 3-of-4 from Pullen to wrap up the victory.  Once again, the Wildcats dominated the boards, holding a 45-33 edge on the glass, while out-scoring the Cougars, 17-11, on second-chance points.  The team tallied at least 20 points off the bench for the seventh time in eight games as seven players recorded at least one field goal in the contest.

Kelly and sophomore Rodney McGruder led K-State in scoring with 15 points each, while Samuels added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.  It marked the second time this season that the two led the squad in scoring, while McGruder registered double-digit points for a team-leading sixth time.  McGruder also grabbed eight rebounds, marking the fifth time that the guard led the team in rebounding.  Kelly added three steals, two assists and two blocks in a season-high 31 minutes of action.  Pullen, who struggled scoring (2-of-11 from the field) against WSU, posted eight points, six rebounds and a team-high five assists in a season-best 35 minutes.  It marked just the third time in the last 50 games (dating back to the 2008-09 season) that Pullen did not reach double-digit scoring.  Freshman Will Spradling chipped in six points, three assists, one block and one steal in 23 minutes.  It marked the fifth time in eight games that he played at least 20 minutes.        

The Wildcats are ranked No. 5 in the third edition of both The Associated Press and USA Today/ ESPN Coaches Top 25 polls released on Nov. 29 after starting the season at No. 3 for their highest ever preseason rankings in both polls.  The No. 3 ranking was the highest in an AP poll in almost 50 years since the team ranked No. 3 on March 6, 1962.  K-State has been ranked in the AP Top 10 for 11 consecutive polls dating back to last year, including a No. 7 ranking prior to the NCAA Tournament.  Overall, the school has appeared in 18 consecutive AP polls dating back to Dec. 14, 2009.  The squad returns nine lettermen from a team that won a school-record 29 games and advanced to their first Elite Eight since 1988. 

K-State is 227-81 (.737) as a ranked team all-time in The Associated Press poll (which dates to 1949-50), including 144-37 (.796) as a Top 10 squad and 92-23 (.800) as a Top 5 team.  The Wildcats have played 21 games previously as the nation’s No. 5 team in the country, boasting a 15-5 (.750) mark.  This will be the third game as the No. 5 team since losing back-to-back games to Kansas and Iowa State in March 2010.
Postgame Notes vs. Washington State
• Friday’s contest was the sixth time K-State has faced Washington State... The Wildcats are now 4-2 against the Cougars, while the win was the first in three tries in Pullman (1941 and 2005)... The team is now 40-28 all-time against Pac-10 schools, including 12-20 on the road.
•The Wildcats snapped a nine-game losing streak to Pac-10 opponents on the road, earning their win on a Pac-10 campus since 1980.
• The starting lineup for the contest consisted of senior guard Jacob Pullen, sophomore guard Nick Russell, sophomore guard Rodney McGruder, junior forward Freddy Asprilla and senior forward Curtis Kelly... This marked the second straight game that this lineup has been used.
•K-State posted season-lows for points (63) and field goals (23)... The team nearly eclipsed the season-high for turnovers with 21.
•The squad held WSU to a season-low 58 points, including just 36.8 percent shooting... The Cougars were just 18.8 percent from 3-point range.
•The Wildcats are now 22-0 under head coach Frank Martin when holding an opponent below 60 points.
•The bench contributed 21 points in the win, marking the seventh time in eight games that the team has gotten at least 20 points from its bench.
•The team held a 45-33 edge in rebounding, including 17 offensive boards... The squad converted those into 17 second-chance points.
•K-State tied a season-high with 10 steals against Washington State... The Wildcats scored 16 points off of 15 Cougar turnovers.

The Book on Alcorn State
Alcorn State enters Monday’s game with a 0-6 record after falling at Southern Miss, 100-71, on Dec. 1.  The Braves are in the midst of a 10-game road trips to start the season, which includes losses at Texas A&M (88-56), Houston (88-68), Purdue (103-48), Colorado (91-51), Denver (69-51).  The team still plays at Nebraska on Dec. 8, South Alabama on Dec. 31 and Ole Miss on Dec. 30 before playing their first home game on Jan. 4 against Prairie View A&M.  In their latest loss, the squad had four players in double figures led by Marquiz Baker’s team-high 23 points. 

The Braves, who have topped the 70-point barrier just once in six games, are averaging 57.5 points on 32.3 percent, including 28 percent from 3-point range, with 35.7 rebounds, 7 assists, 8 steals and 5 blocks per game.  The team is yielding nearly 90 points (89.8 ppg.) per game. The squad has one player averaging in double figures led by Baker’s 15.3 points per game on 29.1 percent shooting from the field.  Baker also leads in steals (1.0) and minutes (30.0 mpg.)  In all, eight players are averaging at least four points, while eight are averaging at least two rebounds per outing.  The squad has depth and versatility with 12 players averaging double-digit minutes and just three averaging over 20 minutes.  Junior Kendrick McDonald is second in scoring at 6.8 points on 27.5 percent shooting, while junior Chris Davenport is averaging 6.0 points on 37.1 percent shooting.  Junior Alex Savannah averages 5.8 points on a team-best 50 percent shooting to go with a team-high 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game.  Sophomore Michael Starks averages 4.8 points on a team-best 50 percent shooting to go with a team-high 4.0 rebounds.
Alcorn State is led by third-year head coach Larry Smith, who has posted an 8-60 (.118) mark at the school.  A 1980 graduate of Alcorn State, he spent 13 years playing in the NBA for Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, including earning All-Rookie honors in 1981.  He has been an assistant coach on the NBA, NBA D-League (NBDL) and WNBA levels, including serving a stint with the Houston Rockets when they won back-to-back NBA Championships in 1993-94 and 1994-95. 

Series vs. Alcorn State
This will be first meeting between K-State and Alcorn State on the hardwood and just the seventh overall with a school from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).  The Wildcats are 6-0 all-time against SWAC teams with an average margin of victory in those six wins of 22.2 points.  All six visits have come at home at Bramlage Coliseum.  Those six other games have come mainly against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which the team has played four times, including visits in 1996, 2002, 2004 and 2009.  The other contest came against Alabama State, a 99-81 win at home on Dec. 14, 1994.  This will be the second meeting with a SWAC school this season, following an 84-60 defeat of Texas Southern on Nov. 26.   
Up Next: Loyola Chicago
K-State will hit the road for Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 11 when the Wildcats play Loyola Chicago (7-2) at 3 p.m.  It will mark the homecoming for senior guard Jacob Pullen, who is from nearly Maywood, Ill.  This will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two schools and the second straight after theys met in the 2009-10 opener in Manhattan.  K-State is 0-4 all-time against Loyola Chicago on the road.

‘Cats in December
Kansas State will look to continue its strong play in the month of December, where the Wildcats have won 41 of their last 51 games.  The team is 448-230 (.660) all-time in December with 33 wins in their last 34 games at home dating back to the 2002-03 season, including a current of streak of 21 consecutive home victories dating back to the 2004-05 season.  The squad’s last home loss in the month came to Rutgers (76-66) on Dec. 28, 2004.  The Wildcats, which completed its first perfect December since 1998, have won 12 consecutive games in the month dating back to a loss at Oregon (75-70) on Dec. 7, 2008.  It is the longest winning streak in the month in more than 60 years since the team rattled off 16 in a row from Dec. 14, 1946 to Dec. 2, 1948.  K-State has won four or more games in December in each of the last eight seasons, including seven in 2009-10.  The squad has posted a winning mark in the month 62 times, including eight consecutive seasons.

Bench Points
One of the definite advantage of this year’s Kansas State squad is its depth and versatility.  The Wildcats have played at least 10 players in each of its first eight games, including a high of 14 against both No. 18/22 Gonzaga (11/22), Texas Southern (11/26) and Emporia State (11/29).  The team has used this depth to its advantage, averaging 31.9 points per game off the bench, while out-scoring its eight opponents by a margin of 255-98.  The squad has scored 30 or more points from the bench in five of the last seven games, including a string of five straight from Nov. 16-26 for the first time under head coach Frank Martin, while it posted 40 or more points of production in back-to-back contests for just the second time under Martin and the first time since 2008-09.  The Wildcats scored 86 points from the bench against Duke (45) and Texas Southern (41), which is the most in consecutive games since they totaled 104 points in games against Idaho State (45, 1/3/09) and Chicago State (59, 1/5/09).  The team has seen nine different players record 26 double-digit scoring efforts this season, including 10 coming off the bench from five separate players.  Junior Jamar Samuels leads the way with four double-digit scoring efforts from the bench.           

Youngsters Stepping Up
For all the attention Kansas State seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly have gotten in the preseason, it has been the play of the team’s freshmen and sophomores, who have helped the Wildcats off to an impressive 7-1 start for this season.  This nucleus has scored 302 of the team’s 605 points thus far (50 percent), while posting 159 of 327 rebounds (49 percent), 64 of 120 assists (53 percent) and 26 of 65 steals (40 percent).  The group represents six of the team’s Top 10 scorers, while it includes two of the Top 5 rebounders and four of the Top 5 assists leaders.  Eleven of 26 double-digit scoring efforts have come from sophomores and freshmen led by guard Rodney McGruder, who is first in rebounding (6.8 rpg.) and minutes (29.1 mpg.), second in scoring (11.8 ppg.), 3-point field goals (18), assists (2.1 apg.) and steals (1.1 spg.).  Sophomore Martavious Irving is fifth in scoring at 6.7 points per game, while freshman Will Spradling (5.6 ppg.) and sophomore Nick Russell (5.0 ppg.) rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in scoring.  Sophomore Jordan Henriquez-Roberts is fourth in rebounding (4.4 rpg.).

Points Off Turnovers
A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams are their ability to score points off of opponent’s mistakes.  Since he became coach, the Wildcats have scored 2,136 points off of 1,883 turnovers in 112 games, an average of 19.1 points per game.  Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in the past four years have come off of offense generated from turnovers, including the current season, in which, the team has outscored its foes, 160-104, through eight games.  In the opener, the squad scored 21 points off 26 James Madison turnovers before converting 18 Presbyterian mistakes into 19 points on Nov. 18.  The Wildcats pressured Emporia State into 21 turnovers on Nov. 29, outscoring the Hornets, 33-6.

In 2007-08, K-State averaged 18.9 points off of 16.2 turnovers per game, while in 2008-09, the team scored 25.7 points off of an average of 17.0 turnovers.  The 2009-10 season was no different with the squad averaging 19.9 points off of 16.9 turnovers per game.  K-State scored 20+ points off of turnovers 17 times a year ago, including a school-record 40 against South Dakota.  The team scored 20 or more points off of turnovers versus several marquee opponents, including UNLV (26), Alabama (22), Texas A&M (23), Colorado (23 and 26), Nebraska (22 and 29), Oklahoma (23), Missouri (21), Oklahoma State (23) and Baylor (22).  The Wildcats have a 46-5 record when scoring 20+ points off turnovers under Martin.
Pullen Named Preseason AP All-American
The accolades for Jacob Pullen continue to mount, as the senior was named a preseason first team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this month.  Pullen, who has been selected to a number of All-American teams, was joined on the first team by North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson and Duke’s Kyle Singler.  Pullen was an honorable mention AP All-American as a junior after leading Kansas State to its first Elite Eight since 1988.  He has already been named a preseason All-American by a number of media outlets, including to the first team by ESPN.com, Blue Ribbon Yearbook and The Sporting News, to the second team by Dick Vitale and to the third team by Athlon Sports.  He was also selected a preseason Top 50 candidate for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s top player by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, while he was named one of 50 preseason candidates for the Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T on Nov. 16.  Pullen is also a candidate for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given to the nation’s top all-around senior basketball player.   

Pullen Moving Up the Charts
Senior guard Jacob Pullen is nearing several career milestone in the midst of his fourth and final season at Kansas State.  With his game-high 26 points against Emporia State on Nov. 29, he became just the sixth player in school history and the first since Askia Jones in 1993 to eclipse the 1,600-point barrier.  His current total of 1,626 points in 112 career games ranks sixth on the school’s all-time scoring chart and is less than 30 points behind Steve Henson (1,655, 1987-90) for fifth and less than 60 points behind Bob Boozer (1,685, 1956-59) for fourth place.  One of three players (Mike Evans and Rolando Blackman) in school history to score 1,500 points in his first three seasons, Pullen has an outside chance (needs 489 points) to become the school’s all-time scoring champion, which is currently held by Mike Evans with 2,115 points from 1974-78.  He trails Askia Jones (1,834, 1989-94) by 208 points for third and Rolando Blackman (1,844, 1977-81) by 218 points for second place.  A season ago, Pullen was one of three players (along with Denis Clemente and Curtis Kelly) to set the single-season record for games played (37) and started (37), while also setting school marks for double-digit scoring games (37), 3-point field goals (110) and steals (67).

Pullen ranks among the Top 10 in 18 career categories, including 11 in the Top 5 in school history.  Already the school’s career record holder for 3-point field goal attempted (682), he became the leader in 3-point field goals in the win over Emporia State on Nov. 29 with four treys, breaking his second-place tie with Askia Jones (237, 1989-94) and passing former leader Steve Henson (240, 1987-90) with 241.  His next record could come in steals, where his 180 career thefts trail Henson (190) by 10.  He is also second in free throws (384), third in assists (374) and consecutive starts (79), fourth in double-digit scoring games (82), minutes played (3,190) and free throws attempted (503) and fifth in consecutive games played (112).   In addition to his records, Pullen is the first player in school history to be named team captain three consecutive years.

‘Cats Picked to Win Big 12 Crown
A consensus Top 10 by a number of media outlets, K-State earned another first in October as the Wildcats were selected to win the Big 12 title for the first time in a vote of the league’s head coaches.  The school received 119 points and 10 first-place votes to out-distance rival and reigning champion Kansas, which was picked second with 109 points and the remaining two first-place votes.  Texas (99) and Baylor (96) followed closely in third and fourth place, respectively, while Missouri (82) and Texas A&M (69) rounded out the top 6.  The rest of the poll included Texas Tech (52), Oklahoma State (51), Colorado (46), Nebraska (31), Oklahoma (27) and Iowa State (11).  Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.  The previous high for K-State in the preseason poll was fourth in both 2007-08 and 2009-10.  The Wildcats, who tied for second place in the Big 12 a year ago, are one of only two teams to finish in the league’s top-4 and receive a bye at the Big 12 Championship each of the past four seasons.

K-State ranks No. 3 in Preseason AP, USA Today/ESPN polls
Kansas State earned its highest preseason ranking in both The Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls, as the Wildcats appeared at No. 3 in both polls.  The No. 3 ranking ties for the highest of any of the major polls, in which, the squad is ranked in the Top 10 in nearly every poll.  It is the highest ever ranking for K-State in a preseason poll and the highest by the AP since it began preseason rankings in 1961.  The previous high for a preseason ranking came at No. 8 by the AP in both the 1961-62 and 1964-65 seasons.  The No. 3 ranking is the highest in an AP poll in almost 50 years since the team ranked No. 3 on March 6, 1962.  K-State was the highest rated Big 12 team in AP poll, which also included No. 7 Kansas, No. 15 Missouri and No. 16 Baylor.  The Wildcats have been ranked in the Top 10 in nearly every preseason poll, including No. 4 by Lindy’s Sports, No. 5 by Athlon Sports, ESPN.com, FOXSports.com and The Sporting News, No. 8 by Dick Vitale and No. 10 by Blue Ribbon Yearbook.

Season Tickets Sold Out
With preseason expectations for K-State at a near all-time high, officials announced on Oct. 22 that all reserved tickets for the 2010-11 season have been sold.  K-State has sold over 12,000 season tickets to the general public and students, surpassing last year’s total by over 750 tickets.  The school has ranked among the nation’s leaders in attendance in three of the last four seasons, including ranking 31st with an average of 11,884 fans per game to 17 home games in 2009-10.  The team also ranked fourth in attendance among Big 12 institutions and was second only to Kansas in sellouts with 14.  In addition, the school enjoyed the nation’s largest average attendance increase with nearly 3,000 more fans per game.  Three of the top-5 single-season attendance averages have come in the last four years.

Fans still wanting to catch the Wildcats in action this season will have the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets to three home games during the holiday semester break when students are not on campus as well as the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City against UNLV on Tuesday, Dec. 21.  Single-game tickets went on sale on Nov. 1 for UMKC (Thursday, Dec. 23), North Florida (Friday, Dec. 31) and Savannah State (Monday, Jan. 3) during the holiday break.  For $20 per game, or $45 for all three match-ups, fans can choose between reserved seats in Section 18 or 25, or general admission tickets.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.kstatesports.com or by calling toll free at (800) 221.CATS.    

Diaz, Gipson Sign with K-State for 2011-12
Head coach Frank Martin announced the signing of high school standouts Adrian Diaz (Miami, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes) and Thomas Gipson (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) to National Letters of Intent on Nov. 14.  Both players are listed on the Rivals150 by Rivals.com with the 6-foot-7, 245-pound Gipson listed at No. 142 and the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Diaz checking in at No. 145.  Gipson is listed 24th nationally among power forwards by Rivals.com, while Diaz ranks 17th among centers nationally. 
An emerging post prospect, Diaz is currently a senior at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School in Hialeah, Fla.  As a junior, he averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Trojans, which posted a 5-15 overall record and 3-7 mark in league play in 2009-10.  He was named preseason honorable mention all-state by FloridaHoops.com.  He will be the third member of his family to play college basketball, following his brothers, Eric, who played at Eckerd College, and Andres (Andy), who currently is a sophomore forward at North Florida.  He received scholarship offers from a variety of schools, including Virginia Tech, South Florida and FIU, along with interest from Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Syracuse.

Rated as the 13th-best prospect in the state of Texas by TexasHoops.com, Gipson is currently a senior at Cedar Hill High School in Cedar Hill, Texas.  As a junior, he led the team in scoring (16 ppg.) and rebounding (7.2 rpg.) en route to helping the Longhorns to a 28-4 overall record and a trip to the area round of the 2010 UIL (University Interscholastic League) Class 5A Tournament.  The team ranked as high as No. 6 in the TABC (Texas Association of Basketball Coaches) Class 5A state poll before losing to Lewisville, 84-82, in the area-round playoffs.  Gipson was a TABC first team Class 5A All-State selection and was co-MVP of District 7-5A.  He helped Cedar Hill to the 2009 Class 5A state final as a sophomore where he averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.  He was named first team All-Area by the Dallas Morning News and was the District 7-5A Sophomore of the Year.  He received scholarship offers from a number of schools, including Baylor, California, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.