No. 11 K-State Returns Home To Face UMKC Thursday

Sophomore Nick Russell scored a game-high 12 points against UNLV Tuesday.

Dec. 22, 2010

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11/11 Kansas State (9-3, 0-0 Big 12)
vs. UMKC (7-4, 0-0 Summit)

Date: Thursday, December 23, 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; Max Leinwand, producer)  |  Channels: DirecTV 671, Dish 418
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, play-by-play; Stan Weber, analyst)  | 
Satellite Radio: n/a   
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International ‘93) is 81-35 (.698) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school.  UMKC - Matt Brown (Shippensburg ‘94) is 37-67 (.356) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school.
Series: K-State leads 14-1  |  Martin vs. Brown:  0-0  |   K-State vs. Summit:  31-3  |  Last time vs. Summit:  W, IUPUI, 70-57, 11/28/09
Last Time Out:  K-State lost to UNLV, 63-59, on Tuesday at the Sprint Center, while UMKC beat Houston Baptist, 73-51, also on Tuesday at home.
Rankings: K-State fell five spots to No. 11 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls on Monday, while UMKC is not ranked in either poll.
Tickets: Available by calling the K-State Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221.CATS or online at www.k-statesports.com.

K-State returns home to face UMKC on Thursday night
No. 11/11 Kansas State (9-3) ends a grueling stretch of games on Thursday night, as the Wildcats return home to the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum to play host to UMKC (7-4) at 7 p.m.  It will end a string of three games in a six-day stretch for the squad, which began in a 57-44 loss to No. 24 Florida at the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla., and continued in Tuesday’s 63-59 setback to UNLV at the Sprint Center in the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic.  It marks just second time in the past 65 contests that the Wildcats have lost consecutive games.  The game will be broadcast regionally by FOX Sports Kansas City with Ben Boyle (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call, while it will be available nationally on ESPN Full Court and on ESPN3.com.  It will be the last game before the squad takes a seven-day break for the holidays. 

K-State is coming off a hard-fought but yet disappointing 63-59 loss to a UNLV team receiving votes in both respective polls.  The setback came just one day after the school announced that seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly were suspended due to secondary NCAA rules violations.  The two were declared ineligible by K-State on Monday after athletics officials confirmed they had received impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing at a local department store.  The school learned prior to tipoff of Tuesday’s game that Pullen would be required to miss three games as a result of a ruling by the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff.  The university is continuing to work with the NCAA regarding Kelly’s status.

The suspensions were disappointing for the team’s lone two seniors, most notably Pullen, who became the school’s first preseason All-American and was the coaches’ top pick as the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.  The leader scorer in nine of 11 games this season, Pullen saw his streak of 115 consecutive games played end with the suspension, including 82 starts in a row.  The 115-game streak is fifth-longest in school history and the longest since Steve Henson played in 127 straight contests from 1987-90.  Kelly, who joined Pullen on the preseason all-conference team, ranked third in the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game after earning recognition to several All-Newcomer teams as a junior.

Despite the loss of these players, undermanned Wildcats fought hard against a veteran UNLV squad, which returned all five starters from team that won 25 games and went to the NCAA Tournament team a season ago.  Starting three sophomores and a true freshman, the squad rallied from a nine-point first half deficit to take a 34-32 at halftime on Nick Russell’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer.  K-State ended the half on a 15-4 run.  The team extended their advantage to six less than three minutes into the second half, however, the veteran Runnin’ Rebels club took the lead for good on a lay-up with just over 13 minutes to play and used stellar free throw shooting (79.2 percent) to halt any comeback.  After shooting nearly 50 percent in the first half (48.1), the Wildcats were dismal in the second half for the second consecutive contest, connecting on just 32 percent from the field, including 16.7 percent from 3-point range.  In the loss to Florida, the team made just 22.2 percent of their field goals in the second half, including 0-of-10 from beyond the arc.  For the year, the squad is connecting on just under 42 percent in the second half, including 25.5 percent from 3-point range, compared to nearly 45 percent in the first half, including 40 percent from beyond the arc.  The squad also lost for the second straight game when leading in the half after winning 69 of their previous 76 games when holding the edge at the half.    
  
K-State saw yet another streak come to an end in the loss, as it ended the team’s 28-game winning streak against non-conference opponents at home, which dated back to 2007.  The contest against UNLV at the Sprint Center counted as a home game since the department controlled the game operations and all ticketing.   The Wildcats, who boast a 31-2 mark in all non-conference home games under Frank Martin, had 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 was the longest in school history since the team rattled off 38 consecutive wins against non-conference teams at home from 1971-78.  The squad is 57-4 (.949) at home against non-conference foes since 2004-05.  The loss came on the heels off another streak buster, as the Florida setback on Dec. 18 snapped the Wildcats’ 14-game winning streak in the month of December, which dated back to a defeat at Oregon in 2008.  Despite the loss, the team is still 33-9 in the month since 2004-05, including an impressive 18-5 mark under Frank Martin.

The team struggled to score the basketball for the second consecutive game, failing to hit 60 points for the first time in back-to-back games since January of 2006.  The Wildcats connected on just 40.4 percent from the field, including 25 percent from 3-point range, while once again struggling from the free throw line.  The team also had a season-worst 23 turnovers, in which, UNLV converted into 21 points.  In the past two games, the squad is averaging just 51.5 points on 33.6 percent shooting, including 19.4 percent from beyond the arc.  It is the worst two-game stretch, scoring since averaging 50.5 points in games against Nebraska and Kansas on Jan. 11 and 14, 2006.    

The Wildcats got a balanced scoring effort against UNLV, as four players -- led by Nick Russell -- scored in double figures, including a first-ever double-double by sophomore Rodney McGruder.  Russell had 12 points on 3-of-6 field goals to go with two assists, while McGruder added 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds to go with a team-best three steals.  McGruder, who had 6-foot-5, is the team’s rebounding at 6.8 boards per game, has paced the Wildcats in rebounds seven times in 12 games.  Junior Jamar Samuels notched a near double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds in a career-tying 33 minutes of action, while sophomore Martavious Irving scored in double figures for the first time in back-to-back games with 10 points.  Freshman Will Spradling connected on a pair of 3-pointers to post six points in a season-high 28 points. 

Despite the poor offensive day, Kansas State was again solid on the defensive end, holding the Rebels to just 63 points.  The team has now held 10 opponents to 65 points or less, including each of the last seven, while holding seven foes to under 40 percent shooting from the field.  In the past seven games, opponents are averaging just 59.1 points on 37.5 percent shooting, including 23.8 percent from 3-point range, to go with 16.7 turnovers per outing.  The team is 58-8 under Frank Martin when holding an opponent below 70 points, including 9-2 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 229-83 (.737) as a ranked team all-time in The Associated Press poll (which dates to 1949-50), including 3-3 (.500) as the 11th-ranked squad.

The Book on UMKC
UMKC enters Thursday’s game with a 7-4 record after winning its second straight game with a 73-51 win over Houston Baptist on Tuesday night at home.  The Kangaroos opened the year with four straight wins, including three at home.  The team followed the streak with three consecutive losses, all on the road, against Wichita State (71-52), IPFW (76-72) and Oakland (99-62), before a 70-63 win at home against Utah Valley.  They lost on the road to Idaho State on Dec. 11 before their current two-game winning streak.  The ‘Roos are 6-0 at home in contrast to 1-4 on the road.  The squad returns eight lettermen, including two starters, from a team that posted a 12-18 record, including a 6-12 mark in the Summit League.

The Kangaroos are averaging 68.3 points on 43 percent shooting from the field, including 34.8 percent from 3-point range, with 34.8 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 6.2 steals and 2.8 blocks per game. The team is allowing 68.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting, including 34.7 percent from beyond the arc, while forcing 14.5 turnovers per game.  The squad has a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging at least eight points per game, including two in double figures.  Senior guard Jay Couisnard leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the field to go with 4.6 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game.  Senior forward Spencer Johnson averages a near double-double with 11.0 points on a team-best 52.3 percent shooting to go with a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game.  Junior guard Reggie Chamberlain and senior guard Bakari Lewis are tied for third in scoring at 9.9 points per game.  Chamberlain leads four players with double-digit 3-point field goals with 18, while he averages 1.6 steals per outing.  Lewis is the team leader in assists (31). 

UMKC is led by fourth-year head coach Matt Brown, who has guided the school to a 37-67 (.356) record.  He was hired in 2007 after spending 10 years as an assistant to current Michigan head coach John Beilein at both Richmond (1997-2002) and West Virginia (2002-07).  He helped the Mountaineers to three consecutive 20-win season from 2004 to 2007 and a trip to the Elite Eight in 2005.    

Series vs. UMKC
This will be 16th meeting between K-State and UMKC on the hardwood since 1987 and the first in Manhattan since 1998.  The Wildcats have won 14 of the previous 15 contests, including all eight at home.  The squad won the first 14 meetings against the Kangaroos by an average of nearly 20 points per game (74.5 ppg. to 55.5 ppg.) before suffering a 93-52 defeat in the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 30, 2003 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.  The 41-point loss ties five others for the second worst in school history behind the 45-point defeat at the hands of Kansas in 1995.  This will be the first meeting at Bramlage Coliseum since Dec. 19, 1998 when the squad posted a 67-39 victory.  Seven of the eight meetings in Manhattan have come in the arena.  Overall, the Wildcats are 31-3 all-time against teams from the Summit League.       

Series vs. North Florida
K-State returns from its seven-day holiday break on New Year’s Eve, as the Wildcats continue their three-game homestand with a contest against North Florida (4-7) at 1 p.m.  This will be the first meeting between the two programs and just the seventh against an Atlantic Sun team.

‘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 55 games.  The team is 450-232 (.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 victories at Bramlage Coliseum 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 the month since a 75-70 setback at Oregon on Dec. 7, 2008.  The 14-game winning streak was the longest in December 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 straight 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 12 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 29.1 points per game off the bench, while out-scoring its 12 foes by a margin of 349-146.  The squad has scored 20 or more points from the bench in 10 of 12 games, including a string of five straight games of at least 30 points 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 37 double-digit scoring efforts this season, including 14 coming off the bench from five separate players.  Junior Jamar Samuels leads the way with six double-digit scoring efforts from the bench.           

Youngsters Stepping Up
Even before the suspension of seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly before the UNLV game on Dec. 21, the play of Kansas State’s freshmen and sophomores have played a major role in the team’s solid 9-3 start to the season.  This nucleus has scored 419 of the team’s 865 points thus far (48 percent), while posting 227 of 499 rebounds (45 percent), 86 of 166 assists (52 percent) and 40 of 88 steals (45 percent).  The group boasts 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.  Fifteen of 37 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 (6.8 rpg.) and is second in minutes played. (28.1 mpg.).  McGruder is tied for second in scoring at 10.3 points per game, while fellow sophomore Martavious Irving is fifth at 7.0 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 (2.0 apg.) and steals (0.8 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 2,194 points off of 1,947 turnovers in 116 games, an average of 18.9 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, 218-157.  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.