Pullen leads No. 13 Kansas State past Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. (AP)—The Kansas State Wildcats swear they prepared for upset-minded Colorado on the road the same way they will get ready to face top-ranked Texas at home Monday night.
If they are going to have a shot at beating the Longhorns, they will have to shore up some things, coach Frank Martin insisted after No. 13 Kansas State’s foul-filled 87-81 victory Saturday.
“We understand we’re getting ready to walk into a buzz saw,” Martin said. “But, you know what, that’s why those kids signed up and came to play for us. Those are the kinds of games they wanted to be in. …
“And we’ve got to be better than what we’ve been defensively or else we’ll be in a lot of trouble.”
Martin wasn’t pleased that the Buffs shot 40 free throws even though the Wildcats (15-2, 2-1 Big 12) went to the line an astonishing 54 times, making 38.
All the whistles made it hard for either team to establish any sort of rhythm.
“That’s becoming a common theme with our basketball team. We commit most of them and it’s a shame,” Martin said. “We didn’t foul earlier in the year. Now, all of a sudden, all we do is foul. It’s bad defense, bad basketball and we’ve got to stop that.”
The Buffs felt the Wildcats’ pain.
“I could never get in a rhythm,” Colorado guard Marcus Relphorde said. “I felt I could have really helped the team out offensively and defensively there in the first half. Cheap fouls. Questionable fouls, it hurt.”
At one point, the officials called the teams together to tell them to clean it up.
“He told us we we’re too good of players to be playing like we were playing,” Colorado’s Dwight Thorne II said. “… He said to clean it up. Obviously, we didn’t because the second half was the same story.”
“I’ve played in more physical games, but it felt like it was officiated so tightly,” Relphorde said. “They weren’t really letting us play. I don’t want to blame it on the refs.”
Jacob Pullen scored 18 points and Denis Clemente finished with 15 despite a 2-of-8 shooting performance, which he atoned for by making 11 of 13 foul shots.
The Wildcats handed the Buffs (10-7, 1-2) their first loss at the Coors Events Conference Center in 10 games this season. The Buffaloes hadn’t started 10-0 at home since the arena opened in 1979-80.
“It’s going to be tough for anyone else to come in here and win games,” Pullen predicted. “They’re a good team. They’re playing a different style than they did last year. They’re really up-tempo.”
Cory Higgins scored a season-best 30 points for Colorado, which upset Baylor on Tuesday night and was seeking to beat ranked teams in consecutive games for the first time in the program’s history.
The Buffs hung with the Wildcats all game but were ultimately done in by fouls and a lack of rebounding.
Kansas State began to inch ahead midway through the second half after Austin Dufault missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for Colorado that would have tied it at 52. Wally Judge made two free throws, Victor Ojeleye hit a hook shot and Rodney McGruder swished two foul shots after a steal to give Kansas State a 58-51 lead.
The Wildcats maintained their lead the rest of the way, with the Buffs cutting it to 78-74 on a basket by Relphorde, who finished with 18 points.
Pullen was impressed by the progress in Colorado’s program this year.
“They really switch up their defenses. They really keep your mind boggled,” he said. “As a mature guard, I really understand how certain teams play. You never can do that with Colorado. They go from a 1-3-1 to a matchup zone to a solid 2-3 to a man-to-man.”
After hounding Colorado freshman sensation Alec Burks, who scored 14 points, the Wildcats turned their attention to the Longhorns even before leaving the arena.
“It’s not every day you get the chance to get the No. 1 team in the nation in your building,” Pullen said.
While the Wildcats may try to treat this next game as any other, they realize it’s not.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity, not just for our players, our fans, our school, our program, everything, to just expose the program that we’re trying to build for the world to see,” Martin said.