For the second straight game, Kansas State will be without senior leaders Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly. At least this time coach Frank Martin can prepare.
The 11th-ranked Wildcats again try to overcome the loss of their top two scorers and avoid a third straight defeat when they host UMKC on Thursday night.
Kansas State (9-3) found out right before Tuesday’s game against UNLV that Pullen and Kelly were suspended by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store.
Pullen was suspended for three games and the length of Kelly’s suspension has not yet been determined by the NCAA’s student-athlete reinstatement staff.
It’s quite a blow for the Wildcats, as Pullen—the only preseason All-American Kansas State has ever had—leads the team with an average of 16.5 points. The 6-foot-9 Kelly is scoring 10.3 points per game.
“These young men have worked hard to represent themselves and Kansas State in a positive manner,” Martin said in a statement before the game. “Having said that, they made a mistake in judgment and have to pay a price for that.”
The Wildcats immediately had trouble adjusting to the absences and lost 63-59 to the Runnin’ Rebels. It was the second straight defeat for Kansas State, which scored its fewest points in nearly five years in falling 57-44 to Florida on Saturday.
After Tuesday’s loss, an angry Martin refused to take questions regarding Pullen or Kelly.
“I don’t want to hear anything else about leadership without anybody other than the guys on the basketball floor,” he said. “I do not want you to refer any questions again about anybody that was not dressed, in uniform.”
Sophomore Nick Russell got the start at guard for Pullen and led the Wildcats with 12 points, but he also turned the ball over five times. Kansas State finished with a season-worst 23 turnovers and was held under 73 points for the first time in seven home games.
“We are immature,” Martin said. “Somewhere along the lines our guys think that you can win basketball games without passing the basketball. We had six assists and 23 turnovers and all 23 were non-aggressive turnovers. It is frustrating to watch.”
While Kansas State struggled against a UNLV team that was in the Top 25 just last week, it seemingly should have a bit more success against the Kangaroos (7-4).
UMKC has been outscored by an average of 20.2 points in losing its last four road games and has dropped all nine contests against ranked opponents since the 1996-97 season.
The Kangaroos did manage to beat Kansas State 93-52 in the last meeting in 2003 after the Wildcats had won the first 14 in the series.
UMKC is coming off Tuesday’s 73-51 win over Houston Baptist, as junior guard Reggie Chamberlain had a season-best 23 points. Chamberlain, who was 5 of 8 from 3-point range, averaged 6.0 points on 4-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc in his first five games this month.