November 29, 2008

K-State can't recover against Kentucky

LAS VEGAS -- Kansas State coach Frank Martin said he isn't happy until he gets punched in the mouth. He assuredly wasn't smiling, though, after K-State suffered a 74-72 loss against Kentucky in the Las Vegas Invitational third-round game late Friday night. K-State battled back from a 17-point hole and sent the Orleans Arena crowd biting its nails before Jodie Meeks, the star of the game, took the ball and preserved the contest in the final seconds.

Jacob Pullen scored 20 points, but his fifth 3-pointer just before the final buzzer merely made the box score look a little bit prettier after the battle of the Wildcats featured several ugly parts.

K-State fell to 5-1 and shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and had just four assists on 24 field goals. Kentucky, 3-2, finished 68.8 percent from the floor overall, including an amazing 76.5 percent (13 of 17) in the first half as Kentucky overcame an early rut to lead 37-23 at the half.

But Kentucky also committed a season-high 31 turnovers, including 17 before the break.

However, all of that meant little to a dejected Pullen, who walked to the locker room with a noticeable limp -- a sore right knee the casualty of Kentucky punching him in the proverbial face.

"No one in that locker room is happy," Pullen said. "We don't believe in moral victories. No, that's B.S. We should've won that game. We had them. In the beginning of the game, we had them peeing down their legs. They didn't want to play."

And then?

"We got tired and stopped pressuring the ball and they got comfortable," Pullen added. "That's where we really messed up. We weren't able to fight back to where we wanted it. We had that game in the last two minutes and we didn't take it. We gave it back to them because we didn't want it."

Kentucky will face West Virginia at 9:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday. The Mountaineers improved to 4-0 with an 87-68 win against Iowa in the first game Friday. That knocked the Hawkeyes to 5-1 and they will face K-State in the 6:30 p.m. (Central) consolation game.

"You should learn from mistakes, not losing," Martin said. "We're going to play in a consolation game."

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