After what happened in the first game in Oklahoma City on Saturday, K-State fans must have been sitting on pins and needles wondering if this was shaping up to be one of the best days ever.
The Wildcats started out slow digging themselves into a 10-0 hole before Jacob Pullen led the charge to get K-State back into the game.
The team erased a pair of double-digit deficits behind a 53-point effort from Pullen and Denis Clemente as the Wildcats pushed past BYU for an 84-72 win.
“I’m excited for them,” head coach Frank Martin said of his team following the game. “It’s all — all the credit and recognition belongs on these kids’s shoulders. They’ve earned it. I talk to them all the time about earning the right. Well, they’ve earned the right to be sitting here today as a Sweet 16 team.”
Pullen finished the game with a career-high 34 points, including hitting a career-high seven three-pointers and shooting 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Clemente added 19 points, and forward Curtis Kelly chipped in with 10. Freshman Wally Judge finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
The big questions coming into the game were whether or not the Wildcats could contain BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and try to keep the Cougars off the line in the process. K-State responded by shutting down Fredette from the field as he went just 5-of-13 from the floor while turning the ball over five times.
The Wildcats scouting report against the star junior seemed to unfold perfectly, thanks in large part to Pullen who studied the film to try and grab every advantage he could against BYU’s go-to-guy. “Just wanted to make him work for everything,” Pullen said about going up against Fredette. “When you watch personnel, you just really get a feel for what people like to do, and I just — I try to focus in on his crossovers and on what side of the screens he did.”
“I sat next to Jacob during film,” said Judge. “I seen the way he broke down everything and watched his moves and what he does to get open. He’s really became a student of the game.”
The Cougars did find their way to the line, making 25-of-28 attempts, but it was K-State performance from the charity stripe that was the real story. The Wildcats made a season best 27-of-30 (90 percent) shots from the line, including going 11-of-12 down the stretch to ice the game.
Pullen scored 20 points in the first half for the third time this season as the Wildcats took a 10-point lead into halftime. K-State made six three-pointers in the opening frame while shooting 13-of-14 from the free throw line and held BYU to 37 percent from the filed and while forcing nine turnovers.
“It’s an amazing feeling, you know,” said Pullen. “It’s a childhood dream. For me to be able to be in this position, you know, I thank Frank all the time. It’s an amazing thing that he was able to give me the opportunity.”
The win was even sweeter for K-State and their fans as they are the lone team from the state still playing in the tournament after top-seeded Kansas was upset by Northern Iowa in the first game of the day in Oklahoma City.
“I’d just like to thank (Kansas) for beating us three times this year,” Jamar Samuels said following the game. “Now, we can try to represent Kansas the way it’s supposed to be.”
With the win, K-State (28-7) advances to their first Sweet 16 since 1988 and will face with winner of Sunday’s Pitt/Xavier matchup next week in Salt Lake City, Utah.
For more info:
– Kansas State Examiner
– BYU Cougars Examiner
– K-State vs. BYU Box Score
– K-State postgame press conference