WILDCATS TOPPLE UTAH STATE; WISCONSIN NEXT
"We're both happy and fortunate to have gotten that one," said K-State coach Frank Martin. "It was a little disappointing that we reverted in the second half to mistakes we made early in the year." And as Jacob Pullen said of this time of the season, "You just have to find a way to have one more point than the other team." While not the prettiest of 40 minutes of basketball, Jamar Samuels offered, "We lived to play another day and that's all that matters in March." Here's an example on how the Wildcats made it tough on themselves: Utah State cut the margin to five ... and Jacob Pullen scored four of the next six K-State points. Utah State slices the difference to seven ... and Will Spradling hits a 3-ball. Utah State makes it an eight-point contest ... and Spradling, again, from deep. Utah State puts the difference at six late ... and the defense forces a travel, followed by a Jamar Samuels bucket. Down the stretch it's a six-point game ... and Pullen makes six straight free throws. "I thought I played well," said Spradling. "Those shots I hit are ones I'm supposed to hit. That's why I'm in the game. I'm not afraid to take those shots." Of the team-wide help, K-State assistant Brad Underwood said, "Will hit two very timely shots, then when they made another run, our seniors did what they needed to do. It was a very even team tonight. We had four guys in double-figures, and just played well as a team." On Spradling's heroics, Samuels said, "Big-time shots. He's not a freshman anymore." Of the second half when K-State was out-scored 46-40, Samuels said, "I wouldn't say they dictated the second half, but we got a little loose with our game. We just made some dumb mistakes." With a grin, Samuels added, "Coach said a lot of words after the game we can't repeat. We just have to try harder against Wisconsin." Pullen added of the second-half woes, "We got a lead to where we were too comfortable. We made lackadaisical errors and stopped communicating." Ask if anything could be learned from hanging on for the win, Martin said, "I don't think you learn anything from lack of discipline." The Wildcats took control of the game in the mid-minutes of the first half when they went on a 9-2 run upping the count to 11, 26-15, at the 4:17 mark, which they later upped to 14, 31-17, with 2:42 remaining. K-State shot just 36 percent in the first half, but made 11-of-11 from the foul line in the first 20 minutes compared to the Aggies' 1-of-5. Kansas State held Utah State's 1-2 scoring punch of Tai Wesley (14.7) and Brockeith Pane (11.6) to just three points in the first half on 1-of-7 shooting when the Wildcats constructed a 33-22 lead. In the second half Wesley scored all of his 18 points, while Pane ended up with 17. The Wildcats (23-10) next get Wisconsin (24-8) at 7:40 p.m. Central on Saturday. The game will be televised by TNT. STAR OF THE GAME: Jacob Pullen scored every time K-State needed a score, especially down the stretch when he upped his personal count by eight from 14 to 22 in the final 2:16 of the contest. Pullen made just 1-of-5 from 3-point range, but 9-of-12 overall from the foul line. He played 37 minutes after missing all of Wednesday's workouts with the flu. Pullen said his fever was over 100-degrees on Wednesday, but added, "When it comes to basketball I put the way I feel aside. It's about winning games and continuing to be able to have a season right now." Martin said Pullen would not have played had he had a fever. On how the illness affected Pullen's play, Martin said, "He didn't have energy. He tried, but just didn't have that extra gear in the second half. What was disappointing is how the rest of the team didn't step up to help him defensively." Rodney McGruder quipped of his teammate, "I think he was faking it to get out of practice." PULLEN UPDATE: Jacob's 22 points gave him 2,094 for a career and pulled him to within 21 of Mike Evans' career record of 2,115 points as a Wildcat. Pullen has played 134 K-State games, while Evans accomplished his feat in just 117 games. The 2,094 point total also moved him to within three of KU's Nick Collison's 2,097 total which ranks fourth on the all-time Big 12 Conference scoring list. Pullen now has 104 double-figure scoring games, which is a K-State record. He has 41 games of at least 20 points, which ranks only behind Bob Boozer's 45. Pullen started his 115th K-State game, which trails only Ed Nealy and Steve Henson with 118, and Rolando Blackman with 116. CO-STAR OF THE GAME: Shane Southwell, who had scored just eight points in the last four games combined (all against Texas) scored eight first-half points and ended the game with 10 for a career-high While not having more than two field goals in any game this year, Southwell netted two buckets before the first media timeout at the 5:11 mark, plus added 4-of-4 shooting from the foul line by the intermission. "When Shane stays dialed in and focused, his length (6-6) defensively bothers people, plus he's a very good passer," said Underwood. Martin added, "Shane had not played well since the Texas game and had not practiced well. We were really on him this week and he responded with a very good effort." STAT OF THE GAME: Remember that team that was junior high-like from the foul line early in the season? In Thursday's win K-State hit 24-of-28 (.857) from the foul stripe as it out-scored Utah State by eight (16-of-21) in what would be a five-point win. ROBERT MAKES IT! Yes, Robert Lipson successfully made the trip to Tucson, saying only that it took "too many" hours. K-State's self proclaimed No. 1 fan said he slept in a road side convenience stop "59 miles" outside of Tucson Wednesday night, and arrived Thursday morning in his 2000 Nissan with 184,000 miles. As he did in Salt Lake City last year, and as he did at the 1993 Copper Bowl in this same city, Lipson said he hoped to "... find some side street where I won't be bothered to spend the night in my Nissan." GAME NOTES: The win over No. 19 Utah State was K-State's sixth against a Top 25 team: No. 22 Virginia Tech, No. 18 Gonzaga, No. 1 Kansas, No. 20 Missouri and No. 7 Texas. Up next is No. 16 Wisconsin. The Wildcats also collected six Top 25 wins last year. The Wildcats are now 32-28 in all-time NCAA Tournament games, which includes an 11-4 mark in first-round games. K-State is now 5-0 against Utah State. K-State won the board game 33-29, and committed one less turnover than the Aggies, 11-12. In attendance was former K-State baseball player Jered Goedert. Goedert left K-State in 2006 as a ninth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians. He's currently at the AAA level. UP NEXT: K-State plays Wisconsin on Saturday at 7:40 p.m. Central at the McKale Center with the game telecast on TNT. That winner will then advance to New Orleans for the Sweet 16 next weekend with that event played in the Louisiana Superdome. The Badgers had their way with Belmont, winning 72-58 on Thursday. K-State and Wisconsin last met in the 2008 NCAA Tournament when the Badgers defeated Michael Beasley and company 72-55 in Omaha, Neb. The Badgers scoring defense of 58.3 ranks ninth in the nation. They have held 18 teams to 59 points or less this year. We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. 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