Wildcats Headed to Sweet 16
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Kansas State erased two early double-digit deficits and guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente combined for 53 points as the seventh-ranked Wildcats advanced to the Sweet 16 with an 84-72 win over BYU Saturday in NCAA Second Round action at the Ford Center.
With the win, the Wildcats (28-7) advance to their first Sweet 16 since 1988 and will face the winner of Sunday's Pitt/Xavier matchup next weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tickets for the West Regional are available at www.k-statesports.com.
The matchup Saturday was hyped to be a battle of top guards and Pullen provided the firepower with a game and career-high 34 points, which included seven three-point field goals. Clemente added 19 as the two combined to go 13-for-13 at the free throw line to pace the Wildcats. Curtis Kelly chipped in 10 points, while Wally Judge had eight points and eight rebounds in the winning effort.
The Wildcats shot 41 percent from the floor in the game and hit 11 three-point field goals. But, the Wildcats' performance at the free throw line was the story as they went a season-best 27-of-30 (90 percent) on the night, which included an 11-of-12 effort down the stretch. The percentage tied for the third-highest in school history for a game (20 or more attempts).
Kansas State had to play catch up in the first half as BYU (30-6) opened the game with a 10-0 run to take control early. Pullen's three at 15:17 cut the lead to 12-7 and Clemente's runner made it 12-9. But, the Cougars made another run to put the lead back to 10, 23-13
A Clemente three brought the Cats to within six at 25-19 with eight minutes left and two free throws from Kelly tied the game at 25 with 5:31 left. Pullen's third three of the half gave the Wildcats their first lead at 28-27 with 4:17 left. The Cats would then connect on seven straight free throws to go up 35-29 and Pullen's three at the 1:32 mark capped a 10-0 run to give K-State a 38-29 lead.
Pullen, who scored 20 points in the first half for the third time this season, hit his fifth three of the half to give the Wildcats a 10-point advantage at the break, 41-31. K-State hit on 13-of-14 free throws in the opening half and connected on six three-point attempts while holding BYU to 37 percent shooting and forcing nine turnovers.
K-State maintained a 10-point lead in the opening minutes of the second half until BYU closed to within 45-40 with 16:25 left. A Judge jumper and another Pullen three upped the lead back to 10 at 50-40 with 15:31 left and Clemente's runner upped it back to seven at 55-48 after BYU cut it to five.
BYU would only get as close as 55-50 the rest of the way as Clemente and McGruder each hit big three's to keep the lead at double digits. After a Judge slam and a Pullen layup, BYU closed it to 66-59 but Pullen answered yet again with a big three and a defensive stand that culminated with a Samuels block secured a 71-61 lead.
K-State went on to hit 11 free throws down the stretch to close out the win.