MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)—Kansas State coach Frank Martin spent almost all of Monday night’s 89-55 victory over Alcorn State in his seat, knowing his fifth-ranked Wildcats would roll over a winless opponent.
He also spent much of the game rubbing his forehead or covering his face, knowing Kansas State could be playing better.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Martin said bluntly. “We can’t sustain energy. We can’t sustain focus.”
Jacob Pullen scored 24 points, his season high against a Division I opponent, to lead the Wildcats while Jamar Samuels had 16 points and Curtis Kelly added 15. Kansas State (8-1) had 10 players see at least 12 minutes. But Samuels and Kelly were a combined 9 of 26 from the field, the Wildcats made just 23 of 40 free throws and committed 23 fouls.
“You get back to youth, especially on the hand-checking,” Martin said. “All that happens there is bad balance and trying to cheat the play. That’s all we did in the first half.”
Marquiz Baker scored 17 points for the Braves (0-7) while Kendrick McDonald added 12.
The Wildcats played almost the entire second half with a lead of more than 20 points after Rodney McGruder’s 3-pointer capped a 6-0 run and made it 52-30 with 17:35 to play.
“We still weren’t playing hard,” Samuels said. “You could see that.”
Pullen, preseason All-American, was 19 of 61 from the field and 10 of 35 beyond the 3-point line in his previous five games against Division I teams.
But this week provides Pullen a good opportunity to turn things around. Not only did he face winless Alcorn State—a team that gave up 89.8 points and lost by more than 31 points on average in its first six games—but Pullen will be playing in front of friends and family Saturday at Loyola of Chicago, minutes from his home town.
Pullen was 6 of 9 for 16 points—one better than his season average—in the first half as Kansas State took a 46-30 lead. He had two assists and six turnovers in the game.
“Last year, we were an intensity team,” Pullen said. “We didn’t wait to get punched in the mouth before fighting back.”
Alcorn State’s Chris Davenport hit a 3-pointer to cut K-State’s lead to 15-10 with 10:15 remaining in the first half. But the Wildcats scored in bunches after that, led by Kelly’s 10 points during final 9 minutes of the half.
“Our guys came out and played hard,” Alcorn State coach Larry Smith said. “But they’re just so deep, it wore us down.”
The game was a matchup of teams with the distinction of being last nationally out of 347 NCAA Division I teams in a statistical category. Alcorn State entered the game averaging 6.7 assists, an average that dropped after the Braves recorded just one assist Monday.
Kansas State entered Monday shooting 52.5 percent at the free throw line, worst in the country. The Wildcats were 23 of 40 Monday (57.5 percent).
Martin is 31-1 at Bramlage Coliseum against nonconference opponents.