Three days after getting beaten 82-68 by No. 1 Duke, the Wildcats (5-1) played what coach Frank Martin described as some of their best basketball of the year in an 84-60 victory over the Tigers. Pullen, their team leader and senior point guard, may have felt better than anyone. After going 1 for 12 against the Blue Devils, he was 6 for 14, scoring 16 points and adding seven assists.
“I put Tuesday behind me when I woke up Wednesday morning,” Pullen said. “I just wanted to come out and win this basketball game. I’m a competitor. I hate the fact that we lost, and today was a chance for us to win another game, so I focused on that.”
This was a rout from the start. The Wildcats (5-1) unleashed a 14-0 run in the early going and spent most of the rest of their night building a bigger and bigger advantage. Kansas State’s biggest lead was 39 points before Texas Southern chipped away in the final minutes against reserves.
“For the first 32, 33 minutes of the game, I thought that’s as well as we’ve played,” Martin said. “We were getting shots. We didn’t shoot it great but we were getting shots through our offense rather than guys holding the ball and getting shots from one-on-one play.”
The Tigers (1-5) dressed only nine players and started two walk-ons. Plus, they were playing their sixth consecutive road game to open the season. They’ll finally get to play at home their next game, on Dec. 4 vs. North Texas.
“Hopefully what we’ll use this as is great experience,” coach Tony Harvey said. “We’ll go back home. We’ll get ready for North Texas. We’ll have our first home game, and hopefully we can have some success at home and build off of it. It could be an exciting time. When we get our whole team in place, we get everybody together, I think we’ll have a really nice team.”
Kansas State, which hit only 11 of 23 foul shots against Duke, made good on 9 of 12 from the foul line while building a 44-18 halftime lead and wound up hitting 13 of 19. They outrebounded the Tigers 45-26, including a whopping 20 offensive rebounds.
“That means we took good shots,” Martin said. “My definition of a good shot is a shot that comes from the offense and it’s a shot where the floor balance is good, which means you’ve got people in place to rebound the basketball. When you take shots where you don’t move the defense, then offensive rebounding becomes very difficult.”
Curtis Kelly, the Wildcats’ other senior starter, had 13 points and five rebounds.
“I think we did a great job attacking the boards. We was aggressive on the boards,” said Kelly. “It affected them a lot. We’ve got to continue doing that.”
Redshirt freshman Lawrence Johnson-Danner had 18 points for Texas Southern while Kevin Galloway had 15 points and 10 assists. Aaron Clayborn had 12 points.
“We’re a little thin right now. We’ve got three starters that are out so we started two walk-ons,” said Harvey.
Rodney McGruder had 10 points for Kansas State and Wally Judge, a 6-foot-9 sophomore who’s been off to a disappointing star, had a season-best nine points.
Kansas State guard Nick Russell played only 3 minutes before becoming ill.
“He didn’t say anything to anyone before the game,” Martin said. “When he got to the bench he started hurling on the bench. Then they told me he was done for the game. When I came in the locker room at halftime his parents were in there and they said they’d probably take him to the hospital and stick an IV in him. He’s got some kind of bug. I’ll find out here as soon as we’re done.”
Jordan Henriquez-Roberts had nine points and fueled an 8-2 run at the end of the first half. He had a free throw, then got put-back baskets on consecutive trips down the court before McGruder’s 3-pointer ended the spurt.
Johnson-Danner, in one of the few bright moments for the Tigers, got the final bucket of the half when he took the ball away from McGruder under the Texas Southern basket, turned around and canned a 10-footer.
The Tigers were only 3 for 11 from the foul line.
“We bounced back well,” Pullen said. “I think we did a good job of guarding the ball, good job of pressuring them, making them do things we wanted them to do so we’d be in position to take charges and really force the tempo of the game.”