MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)—Closing out a dominating first half, Jacob Pullen bounced an alley-oop pass off the backboard to Curtis Kelly for an emphatic dunk.
Teammate Jamar Samuels walked off the other end, put his hands on a courtside table and looked down at the reporters sitting there.
“Did you see that?” he asked, wide-eyed.
It’s hard to miss anything the Wildcats are doing this season.
Jacob Pullen had 23 points, Dominique Sutton had a double-double, and No. 12 Kansas State beat South Dakota 91-69 on Sunday to close out its nonconference schedule on a 10-game winning streak.
Kansas State (13-1) overwhelmed South Dakota from the opening tip and didn’t let up, dishing and dunking its way to the program’s best start since the 1958-59 season, and the second-best overall. Pullen hit six 3-pointers, Sutton had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Kelly chipped in 15 points for the Wildcats, who will take their longest winning streak in 16 years into Saturday’s Big 12 opener at Missouri.
“As a team, I think we did exactly what we needed to do,” said Pullen, who had six assists and no turnovers.
South Dakota (6-7) had its first shot blocked into the stands, and its second was an airball on an open 3-pointer. It didn’t get a whole lot better after that.
Overmatched at nearly every position, the Coyotes never stood much chance in their second game ever against a ranked opponent. They were unable to keep Kansas State off the offensive glass, threw passes to no one, and watched helplessly as the Wildcats raced to the other end for one dunk after another.
Tyler Cain led South Dakota with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“We can’t handle that quickness and that strength at this point in time of our program,” South Dakota coach Dave Boots said.
While most of the attention in the Big 12 has gone to Kansas and Texas, the top two teams in the country, Kansas State has put together the best nonconference season in school history.
Deep and athletic, the Wildcats tied the 1993-94 team for the most nonconference wins and set a school record for best winning percentage. Kansas State also tied a team record with its 12th straight win at Bramlage Coliseum— first time in a single season—and has won 23 straight nonconference home games.
Bring on the Big 12.
“It’s the most prepared we’ve been in my three years as head coach,” Kansas State’s Frank Martin said. “Does that do you any good in the Big 12? I have no idea.”
Kansas State opened the game with a 13-4 run and kept pouring it on, turning 15 South Dakota turnovers into 28 first-half points, two more than the Coyotes had total. The Wildcats had 17 offensive rebounds that led to 17 more points and four players in double figures by halftime to lead 51-26. Pullen and Sutton were the catalysts, combining for 26 points to match South Dakota’s total for the half.
“Their pressure was overwhelming in the first half,” Boots said. “I really appreciate that Coach Martin didn’t do that to us in the second half. It really would have been an embarrassing game for us.”
The second half started the same way.
Pullen hit two quick 3s, Denis Clemente threw an over-the-shoulder alley-oop to Sutton on the break and … well, you get the idea.
By the time they were done, the Wildcats had 29 offensive rebounds that led to 25 points, a school-record 40 points off turnovers and five players in double figures. Clemente finished with 14 points, eight assists and four steals, Samuels added 13 points, and Kelly blocked six shots.
Now, the Wildcats get to see if they can keep it going in the big, bad Big 12.
“It’s an opportunity and we’ve just got to be prepared for it,” Pullen said. “When preparation meets opportunity it equals success. Because we’ve prepared for it, hopefully when the door opens we can walk right through it.”