Pullen pours in 30, K-State beats Bama 87-74
MOBILE, Ala. (AP)—Final exams and a tiring travel schedule didn’t cool off Jacob Pullen and No. 17 Kansas State.
Pullen hit six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points, leading the Wildcats to an 87-74 victory over Alabama on Saturday night a day after finishing finals.
“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,” Kansas State coach Frank 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.”
The Wildcats (10-1) dominated most of the game, shrugging off the Crimson Tide’s only second-half rally after building an 18-point lead against a team guided by Martin’s high school teammate and longtime friend, Anthony Grant.
The two clasped hands and embraced as the final seconds ticked off.
Wally Judge added 15 points for Kansas State, which has won seven straight for the first time in Martin’s two-plus seasons. Denis Clemente scored 11 and dished out four assists.
Mikhail Torrance led Alabama (7-4) with 20 points and JaMychal Green added 17 before fouling out with 5:26 left. Senario Hillman added 11 points for the Tide.
They couldn’t keep up with Pullen, though, who stayed hot even after a weeklong layoff for finals. At one point, he and Alabama were tied at 20-all. He made half of the game’s 12 3-pointers and accounted for all of the Wildcats’ makes.
“I honestly didn’t know how many points I had in the first half,” Pullen said. “I didn’t even look up.”
Pullen also had four assists and three steals while committing six of the Wildcats’ 22 turnovers against Alabama’s full-court press.
Pullen’s previous season-best was a 28-point performance last weekend against UNLV, when he hit seven 3-pointers. He was just as hot Saturday night.
“I just yell, ‘Hit that for me, Pull. Let’s get back on defense,”’ Samuels said. “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever been around.”
With his fourth 3, Pullen became the 21st Kansas State player and only the eighth guard to reach 1,000 career points.
The Wildcats overcame their turnovers by shooting 59 percent and dominating the boards, outrebounding the Tide 38-23.
Martin and Grant have been friends since their 10th-grade year at Miami Senior High School 28 years ago, and worked together at their alma mater as young coaches.
Grant is trying to rebuild the Tide while Martin has his third Kansas State team riding high after last week’s 15-point win over then-No. 18 UNLV.
That friendship is why Martin described the experience as “awful.”
“Ever since he got hired, I’ve been so happy because he was so deserving,” he said. “But I don’t enjoy playing my friends. It tears me up. Growing up close to him, I know what losing does to him, so it’s hard for me to enjoy.”
Alabama made a 10-0 run over a span of 1:16 to briefly get back into it. Green’s two free throws made it 61-53 with 6:33 left.
Kansas State’s answer was even quicker, a 67-second, eight-point surge that included four free throws. The Wildcats were 23 of 31 from the line.
“We had the momentum but they have a great team. They’re ranked for a reason,” Torrance said. “They’re a great team and great teams come up at big times in big games. When you give a great team a 20-point cushion, it’s kind of hard to dig yourself out.”
Alabama couldn’t sustain anything in the first half, shooting just 31 percent.
The Tide had nearly as many turnovers (eight) as field goals (nine) in the half. Kansas State’s break didn’t cause any rust, as the Wildcats scored the game’s first seven points.
“I know we got outplayed,” Grant said. “They were the better team. They came out with great energy and built a big lead. We were playing catch-up. They put us on our heels from the beginning.”