Kansas State coach Frank Martin was thrilled with the way his team navigated a pair of difficult road games.
Martin’s 12th-ranked Wildcats shouldn’t have many problems continuing their strong start during a three-game homestand that begins Monday night against winless Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Behind Jacob Pullen’s hot shooting, Kansas State (10-1) won at then-No. 18 UNLV 95-80 on Dec. 12 and followed with an 87-74 victory over Alabama in Mobile, Ala., a week later. The two victories helped the Wildcats move up five spots in the most recent AP Top 25.
Pullen, who leads the Wildcats with 20.2 points per game, scored a season-best 28 points and made a career-high seven 3-pointers against the Rebels.
He topped that point total Saturday night with 30, which included a 6-for-9 performance from beyond the arc. When the Wildcats took a 40-20 lead late in the first half, Pullen had scored as many points as the entire Crimson Tide team.
“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever been around,” Kansas State forward Jamar Samuels said.
Before that game, Kansas State had already earned its first ranking since being No. 24 on Feb. 18, 2008. It was also the highest for the Wildcats since they were No. 14 in February 1988 en route to their most recent NCAA tournament regional final appearance.
“I was ecstatic with the fact that our guys continue to build on the success that we’ve been kind of building here, especially away from home,” Martin said. “Our practice schedule was just crazy all week. Having to travel after taking our last set of finals (Friday), then turn around and fly here and play against a team that I know is going to compete, I was proud of how our guys zoned in and came out ready to play tonight.”
To carry its momentum into Big 12 play, Kansas State will try to take advantage of a favorable stretch at Bramlage Coliseum. After this meeting with the Golden Lions (0-9), the Wildcats host Cleveland State and South Dakota before opening conference play Jan. 9 at Missouri.
Kansas State, looking to win eight in a row for the first time since an 8-0 start to the 2004-05 campaign, meets an Arkansas-Pine Bluff team that’s dropped its first nine by an average of 14.7 points.
The Golden Lions, averaging 60.4 points, have two players scoring in double figures - sophomore guard Savalance Townsend (11.6 ppg) and senior post player Lebaron Weathers (10.0).
Weathers’ 16 points helped them reach 70 in a game for the second time this season in Saturday night’s 88-70 defeat at Missouri. Arkansas-Pine Bluff will try to duplicate that against another tough defense that’s held opponents to 67.9 points per game.
The Wildcats are also among the nation’s best offenses, averaging 82.1 points, and they’ve won the three previous meetings between the schools - all in Manhattan - by an average of 25.7 points, including a 76-42 victory in the last matchup Nov. 29, 2004.