February 14, 2009

No. 16 KU snaps K-State's winning streak

Kansas State had every reason to believe it was capable of knocking off No. 16 Kansas for the second straight year in Bramlage Coliseum and earning its seventh straight win overall. The Wildcats had even more reason to be confident after building a 30-14 lead less than 12 minutes into the game. The rival Jayhawks had other ideas, however, as the battled all the way back to claim an 85-74 win.

K-State (17-8, 6-5 Big 12 Conference) appeared to have the young Jayhawks (20-5, 9-1) rattled early on, but the early lead proved difficult to maintain.

"They just went on a run. We weren't guarding the ball very well, and they got second-chance opportunities and put those in," K-State senior Darren Kent said. "We didn't do a good job getting back on transition defense. They were getting the looks and knocking them down, and they got back into it."

The Jayhawks jumped all over K-State in the two teams' first meeting this season, building an 18-0 lead before the Wildcats even knew what hit them in Lawrence. The roles were reversed in the first half in Manhattan. K-State exploded for a 20-3 run midway through the first half, a run KU coach Bill Self called three time outs during in an attempt to slow the Wildcats' momentum. The only basket KU scored during the seven-minute run came on a goal-tending call that awarded Travis Releford two points.

"We (had them on their heels). We were up 16 points," K-State guard Jacob Pullen said. "Like coach said though, a good team isn't going to just pack it up. We're playing against a good team. They aren't just going to walk away. They regrouped, came back and gave us a run."

By the time the run was over K-State held a commanding 30-14 advantage, but the Jayhawks would battle all the way back before halftime. Marcus Morris helped spark an 11-0 KU run that would tie the score at 38-38 with just over a minute left in the half. Pullen put an end to the run with a 3-pointer, his third of the first half, and a pair of Denis Clemente free throws stretched K-State's lead back out to 43-39 before KU's Brady Morningstar knocked down a 3-pointer just before time expired make the score 43-42 in favor of the Wildcats heading into halftime.

K-State was red hot from 3-point range in the first half, connecting on seven of 10 attempts from long range. Clemente and Pullen accounted for all seven makes and combined for 31 of K-State's 43 first-half points. Kansas answered by shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, as the Jayhawks finished the half by knocking down 11 of their final 15 field goal tries.

Kansas took the lead on the first basket of the second half, but the Wildcats immediately responded with a 6-0 spurt to regain a 49-44 advantage just two minutes into the half. In what seemed to be a game of runs, Kansas then responded with a massive one. The Jayhawks outscored the Wildcats 17-2 over a six-minute span to grab control of the contest.

The run also featured a sequence in which Clemente was called for a game-changing technical foul with K-State in possession and trailing by two. Kansas guard Sherron Collins would connect on the ensuing pair of free throws to extend the KU lead to four, and after maintaining possession Tyrel Reed knocked down a 3-pointer to make the score 58-51 in favor of Kansas. K-State was unable to answer on the following possession, and Collins knocked down a 3-pointer after Kansas regained the ball to extend the Jayhawk lead to 10 points.

"We were down by two. They get two free throws, we're down by four. They make that shot, we're down by seven, then they make that 3-pointer, and they are up by 10. I think that's the game right there."

K-State was able to chip away at KU's lead and got as close as two points three separate occasions, including once on a four-point play from Pullen with 5:34 remaining. The Wildcats would never get over the hump, however. Kansas was able to hold K-State off down the stretch largely because of its accuracy from the free-throw line. After starting just one of five from the charity stripe KU knocked down 19 of its next 20 free throw attempts and finished the game 27 of 35 from the line. The Wildcats made just 50 percent (8 of 16) of their second-half free throw attempts.

"We were grasping (in the first half). We didn't have anything going, and they were great," KU coach Bill Self said afterwards. "We dared Pullen to make his first shot, and he did. He had eight points by the first media timeout, and we couldn't stay in front of Clemente. He made everything he looked at early as well. Our guys stayed tough. That may be as good of a road win since I have been here given the youth and circumstances."

Clemente (26 points) and Pullen (22) combined to score 48 of the Wildcats' 74 points. Darren Kent added 12 points and was the only other Wildcat to finish in double figures. Jamar Samuels, Fred Brown and Dominique Sutton combined to go just four of 13 from the floor for nine points.

Kansas' scoring was a bit more balanced. Cole Aldrich, who K-State could not contain down the stretch, finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Collins added 19 and six assists, Morningstar finished with 12 points and made all four of his 3-point attempts and Marcus Morris ended the game with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

K-State will actually step out of Big 12 play for its next contest when UNC Central visits Manhattan on Tuesday. The Wildcats will resume conference play at Iowa State next Saturday.

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