No. 11 K-State Hosts UNLV in Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic

Freshman Will Spradling has started each of the last three games.

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Dec. 20, 2010

11/11 Kansas State (9-2, 0-0 Big 12)
vs. UNLV (10-2, 0-0 Mountain West)
Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic

Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010  |  Tipoff: 8 p.m. CT
Location: Kansas City, Mo.  |  Arena: Sprint Center (18,897)  | 
Live Stats: www.k-statesports.com
Television: ESPN2 (Dan Shulman, play-by-play; Dick Vitale, analyst; Eric Posman, producer)  | 
Internet: ESPN3.com
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, play-by-play; Stan Weber, analyst)  | 
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 122, XM 143   
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International ‘93) is 81-34 (.704) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school.  UNLV - Lon Kruger (Kansas State ‘75) is 465-297 (.610) in his 25th season as a coach and 147-64 (.697) in his seventh year at the school.
Series: UNLV leads 3-2  |  Martin vs. Kruger:  1-0  |   K-State vs. MWC:  33-21  |  Last time vs. SEC:  W, BYU, 84-72, 3/22/10
Last Time Out:  K-State lost to No. 24 Florida, 57-44, at the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday, while UNLV beat Southern Utah, 72-50, at home.
Rankings: K-State fell five spots to No. 11 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls, while UNLV dropped out of both polls.
Tickets: Sold out.

K-State hosts UNLV in Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic on Tuesday
No. 11/11 Kansas State (9-2) looks to get back on the winning track on Tuesday night, as the Wildcats host UNLV (10-2) in Kansas City’s Sprint Center in the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic.  It will the second game of three in a six-day stretch for the team before they take an eight-day break for the holidays.  The game is set to tipoff at 8:15 p.m. CT on ESPN2 with Dan Shulman (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (analyst) on the call.  It will also be available on ESPN Full Court as well as ESPN3.com.  The contest marks the fourth consecutive season that the Wildcats have hosted a game at the Sprint Center, following wins over Florida A&M (87-60) in 2007, Southern Miss (74-55) in 2008 and IUPUI (70-57) in 2009.  The team is 6-3 all-time in the arena, including a split of games with Gonzaga and Duke earlier this season at the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic.  

After back-to-back homecoming games for various members of the K-State team, Tuesday’s contest will be a homecoming for a few members of the UNLV coaching staff, most notably head coach Lon Kruger, who not only starred for the Wildcats on the court as a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year from 1971-74, but also coached the squad to 81 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances from 1986-90.  A member of the state of Kansas Hall of Fame as well as the school’s athletics Hall of Fame, Kruger’s No. 12 jersey was retired by K-State in 2006.  Three members of his coaching staff also have ties to the university, as assistant coach Greg Grensing, a native of Council Grove, Kan., served as a Wildcat assistant from 1986-94, assistant coach Steve Henson (a native of McPherson, Kan.) was a standout player for the Wildcats from 1986-90, becoming the first and only player to lead the school to four consecutive NCAA Tournament en route to becoming the all-time leader in games played (127), starts (118), assists (582) and steals (190), while director of basketball operations Mike Shepherd (a native of Burlingame, Kan.) is a 1992 graduate of K-State and a former manager.  The other assistant, Lew Hill, also has ties to the state of Kansas, having starred at Wichita State from 1985-88.

After seeing its 14-game winning streak in the month of December come to an end in Saturday’s loss to No. 24 Florida, K-State will put yet another streak to the test on Tuesday, as the squad has won 28 consecutive non-conference home games dating back to 2007.  The game counts as a home contest since the athletic department controls the game operations and all ticketing.  The Wildcats, who boast a 31-1 mark in all non-conference home games under Frank Martin, have not lost a non-conference home game since an 80-77 overtime loss to Oregon at Bramlage Coliseum on Nov. 29, 2007.  The 28-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.  The team is 57-3 (.949) at home against non-conference foes since 2004-05.      

The Gators not only ended the Wildcats’ 14-game winning streak in December in Saturday’s 57-44 win at the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., but also spoiled the homecoming of several Wildcats, including Miami native Frank Martin.  It was the first loss in the month since a 75-70 setback at Oregon on Dec. 7, 2008.  The 14-game streak was the longest in December since the team won 16 in a row between 1946-48.  Overall, K-State is 33-8 in the month since 2004-05, including an impressive 18-4 mark under Frank Martin.

K-State set season-lows in 10 offensive categories in the loss to Florida, including points (44), field goals (15), field goal percentage (27.3), 3-point field goals (three), 3-point field goal percentage (15.8), assists (seven) and rebounds (32).  The 44 points were the fewest scored by a Frank Martin team and the fewest in the span of 164 contests since scoring 42 in a home loss to Nebraska on Jan. 11, 2006.  It was also the first loss under Martin when holding an opponent to 60 points or less, a stretch in which the team was 27-0.  The last loss to an opponent scoring under 60 points came in that same Nebraska game (57-42) on Jan. 11, 2006, a span of 45 consecutive such contests. 

Leading 20-8 with 9:17 in the first half, the Wildcats missed 22 of their next 23 field goals, including 11 consecutive to start the second half, to turn a 12-point advantage into a seven-point deficit.  The squad made just 6-of-27 field goals in the second half, including 0-of-10 from beyond the arc, to post their worst shooting percentage (27.3) since connecting on just 23.4 (11-of-47) percent against the Cornhuskers in 2006.  It also marked the team’s first loss this season when leading at the half and just the eighth (69-8) since Frank Martin became head coach in 2007.  

Senior Jacob Pullen led the team in scoring for the ninth time in 11 games with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting.  He passed Bob Boozer (1,685, 1956-59) for fourth place all-time in scoring in school history and now sits 12 points behind 1,700 with 1,688 points in 115 games.  The career leader in 3-point field goals and 3-point field goals attempted, Pullen ranks in the school’s Top 10 in 18 career categories, including 13 in the Top 5.  Sophomore Martavious Irving, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was only player to come close to double figures with eight points.  Fellow sophomore Rodney McGruder led the team in rebounding for the sixth time with a career-tying nine boards.

Despite the poor offensive day, the Wildcats were again solid on the defensive end, holding the Gators to just 57 points.  The team has now held nine opponents to 65 points or less, including each of the last six, while holding six foes to under 40 percent shooting from the field.  During the team’s five-game winning streak from Nov. 26 to Dec. 11, opponents combined to average just 58.8 points on 35.1 percent shooting, including 24.4 percent from 3-point range.  The team is 58-7 under Frank Martin when holding an opponent below 70 points, including 9-1 this season. 

The Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in the sixth edition of both The Associated Press and USA Today/ ESPN Coaches Top 25 polls released on Dec. 20 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.  The squad fell out of the Top 10 for the first time in 13 consecutive polls since ranking No. 11 on Jan. 25, 2010.  Overall, the school has appeared in 21 consecutive AP polls dating back to Dec. 14, 2009.  K-State is 229-82 (.737) as a ranked team all-time in The Associated Press poll (which dates to 1949-50), including 3-2 (.600) as the 11th-ranked squad.

The Book on UNLV
UNLV enters Tuesday’s game with a 10-2 record after ending a two-game skid with a 72-50 win over Southern Utah on Saturday night at home.  The Runnin’ Rebels opened the year with nine straight wins, including the championship of the 76 Classic in Anaheim with wins over Tulsa (80-71), Murray State (69-55) and Virginia Tech (71-59).  The team dropped their first game at Louisville, 77-69, on Dec. 11 before making it consecutive games with a 68-62 setback at home to UC Santa Barbara four nights later on Dec. 15.  The squad returns 10 lettermen, including all five starters, from a squad that posted a 25-9 record, including an 11-5 mark in Mountain West play, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.   

The Rebels are averaging 75.6 points on 49.9 percent shooting from the field, including 35.4 percent from 3-point range, with 35.6 rebounds, 16.0 assists, 8.9 steals and 4.5 blocks per game.  The team has been strong defensively, holding opponents to 61.2 points on 387 percent shooting, including 33.5 percent from beyond the arc, while forcing 18.1 turnovers per game.  The squad has a balanced scoring attack with eight players averaging at least five points per game, including three in double figures.  Junior Chace Stanback leads the team in scoring at 13.7 points on an impressive 53.4 percent shooting from the field to go with 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 26.3 minutes per game.  Fellow junior Oscar Bellfield is second in scoring at 11.8 points on 47.1 percent shooting to go with a team-high 25 3-point field goals and team-best 4.3 assists per game, while senior Tre’Von Willis is third in scoring at 10.4 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting.  Senior Derrick Jasper is pacing the squad with 5.3 rebounds per outing to go with 9.6 points per game.    

UNLV is led by seventh-year head coach Lon Kruger, who has guided the school to four consecutive 20-win seasons and trips to the postseason in five of the last six seasons, including three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four years.  He has posted a 465-297 (.610) record in 25 seasons as a head coach, including a 147-64 (.697) mark at UNLV.  He is one of just five coaches to lead three different schools to the Sweet 16.

Series vs. UNLV
This will be sixth meeting between K-State and UNLV on the hardwood and the first in a home venue since the Wildcats earned a 82-65 win at Ahearn Fieldhouse in Manhattan on Jan. 4, 1982.  Last season, the squads met at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 12 with K-State posting a 95-80 win behind 57.1 percent shooting from the field.  Four players scored in double figures led by the guard duo of Denis Clemente (22) and Jacob Pullen (28), who combined for 50 points on 57.1 percent shooting (16-of-28), including 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from 3-point range.  The win snapped a three-game winning streak by the Rebels in the series, which including an 80-61 win in the 1987 NCAA Tournament.  This will be just the second meeting between the clubs since that 1987 NCAA Tournament and the first-ever meeting in Kansas City.   

Series vs. UMKC
K-State will wrap up a tough stretch of games on Thursday, Dec. 23, as the Wildcats return home to the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum to host UMKC (6-4) at 7 p.m.  The two schools, which have met 15 times since 1987, will play for the first time since 2003.

‘Cats in December
Kansas State will look to continue its strong play in the month of December, where the Wildcats have won 43 of their last 54 games.  The team is 450-231 (.662) all-time in December with 34 wins in their last 35 games at home dating back to the 2002-03 season, including a current of streak of 22 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 their first perfect December since 1998 a year ago, saw their 14-game winning streak in the month end in a 57-44 loss to No. 24 Florida at the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  It was the first loss in December since a 75-70 setback at Oregon on Dec. 7, 2008.  The 14-game winning streak was the longest 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 11 games, including a high of 14 against No. 18/22 Gonzaga (11/22), Texas Southern (11/26), Emporia State (11/29) and Alcorn State (12/6).  The team has used this depth to its advantage, averaging 29.6 points per game off the bench, while out-scoring its 11 foes by a margin of 326-129.  The squad has scored 30 or more points from the bench in six of the last 10 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 33 double-digit scoring efforts this season, including 12 coming off the bench from five separate players.  Junior Jamar Samuels leads the way with five 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 a solid 9-2 start for this season.  This nucleus has scored 374 of the team’s 806 points thus far (46 percent), while posting 202 of 456 rebounds (44 percent), 82 of 160 assists (51 percent) and 35 of 82 steals (43 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.  Twelve of 33 double-digit scoring efforts have come from sophomores and freshmen led by guard Rodney McGruder, who leads the team in 3-point field goals (23) and rebounding (6.5 rpg.) and is second in minutes played. (28.0 mpg.).  McGruder is tied for second in scoring at 10.3 points per game, while fellow sophomore Martavious Irving is fifth at 6.7 points per game.  Will Spradling, who became just the second true freshman guard to earn a start under head coach Frank Martin, ranks first in free throw percentage (88.2) and is second in assists (2.1 apg.) and steals (0.9 spg.).

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 2,185 points off of 1,935 turnovers in 115 games, an average of 19 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, 209-136.  The squad has scored 20 or more points off of turnovers in four games, including a season-best 33 points against Emporia State on Nov. 29.  The team has pressured their foes into 15 or more turnovers in nine games, including a season-high 26 vs. James Madison in the opener.

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 47-5 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 K-State.  With his game-high 19 points against Florida on Saturday, he moved past Bob Boozer (1,685, 1956-59) into fourth place on the school’s all-time scoring chart.  This came after his 19-point output at Loyola Chicago on Dec. 11 moved him past Steve Henson (1,655, 1987-90).  Just the sixth player in school history and the first since Askia Jones in 1993 to top the 1,600-point barrier, Pullen’s current total of 1,688 points in 115 career games is less than 200 points behind Rolando Blackman (1,844, 1977-81)and Askia Jones (1,834, 1989-94) for second and third places, respectively.  One of three players (Mike Evans and Rolando Blackman) in school history to score 1,500 points in his first three seasons, he has an outside chance (needs 427 points) to become the school’s all-time scoring champion, which is currently held by Mike Evans with 2,115 points from 1974-78. 

Pullen ranks among the Top 10 in 18 career categories, including 13 in the Top 5 in school history.  Already the school’s career record holder for 3-point field goal attempted (701), he became the leader in 3-point field goals (now at 246) 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).  His next record could come in steals, where his 182 career thefts trail Henson by eight.  With his six makes against the Gators, he became the first Wildcat since Boozer to connect on 400 free throws in a career.  He ranks third in assists (382), free throws attempted (527), steals per game (1.58) and consecutive games started (82), fourth in double-digit scoring games (85) and minutes (3,294) and fifth in consecutive games played (115) and starts (96).  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.