7/7 KANSAS STATE (26-7, 11-5 Big 12)
vs. North Texas (24-8, 13-5 Sun Belt)
NCAA West Regional First Round
Date: Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tipoff: 30 minutes after conclusion of the first game between No. 7 seed BYU (29-5) and No. 10 seed Florida, which begins at 11:20 am CT
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. | Arena: Ford Center (17,611)
Television: CBS Sports (Kevin Harlan, play-by-play; Dan Bonner, analyst; Craig Silver, producer)
National Radio: Westwood One (Brad Sham, play-by-play; Reid Gettys, analyst)
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, play-by-play; Stan Weber, analyst) | Live Stats: www.NCAASports.com | Local Stations: Sports Radio 1350 AM (KMAN; Manhattan), 101.5-FM (KMKF; Manhattan)
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International '93) is 69-31 (.690) in his third season at K-State. North Texas - Johnny Jones (LSU '85) is 150-120 (.556) in his ninth season at North Texas and 165-136 (.548) in his 10th season overall.
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 24 (1948-51-56-58-59-61-64-68-70-72-73-75-77-80-81-82-87-88-89-90-93-96-2008-2010) | Overall NCAA Tournament Record: 28-27 (9-4 in first round games) | West Regional: 8-6 (4-0 in first round games) | In Oklahoma City: 0-1 | In Ford Center: 1-2 (0-0 in the NCAA Tournament) | As a No. 2 seed: 0-0 | vs. No. 15 seed: 0-0 | vs. North Texas: 5-1 (0-0 in the NCAA Tournament | Last time in NCAA Tournament: K-State lost to No. 6 Wisconsin, 72-55, in second round of 2008 Midwest Regional.
Last time: No. 9/9 K-State lost to No. 1/1 Kansas, 72-64, in the title game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship on Saturday. North Texas won the Sun Belt Tournament title and its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 66-63 over Troy on March 9.
Rankings: K-State is ranked No. 7 in AP Top 25 and No. 7 in ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25. North Texas is not ranked.
Tickets: All-session tickets are available for $204 through the Ford Center at OKFordCenter.com and Ticketmaster at Ticketmaster.com.
K-State travels to Oklahoma City for 24th NCAA Tournament
Kansas State (26-7, 11-5 Big 12) was rewarded for its successful season on Sunday night, as the Wildcats earned their 24th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their second in the last three seasons by receiving an at-large bid to the tournament. The squad was selected as a No. 2 seed in the West Regional and will travel to Oklahoma City, Okla., to play No. 15 seed and Sun Belt Conference champion North Texas (24-8, 13-5 Sun Belt) at the 17,611-seat Ford Center on Thursday, March 18. The winner will advance to play either No. 7 seed BYU (29-5, 13-3 MWC) or No. 10 seed Florida (21-12, 9-7 SEC) on Saturday, March 20 at a time to be determined. The Wildcats and Mean Green will play 30 minutes after the conclusion of the contest between BYU and Florida, which is slated to begin at 11:40 a.m. CT. The four teams will be joined in Oklahoma City bracket by No. 1 seed Kansas, No. 8 seed UNLV, No. 9 seed Northern Iowa and No. 16 seed Lehigh of the Midwest Regional, who all play in the second session on Thursday. All the games in Oklahoma City will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports with Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst) on the call.
K-State is making its 31st postseason appearance, which includes 24 in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the National Invitational Tournament. It marks the fourth consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats and the first in the NCAA Tournament since losing to No. 3 Wisconsin, 72-55, in the second round of the Midwest Regional in Omaha, Neb., on March 22, 2008. The four straight postseason trips are the most since the school advanced to the NCAA Tournament each season from 1987 to 1990. The program has posted a 28-27 (.509) all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, including a 9-4 mark in first round games. The school will be making its fifth appearance in the West Regional and the first since 1987 with an 8-6 record all-time. The No. 2 seed is the highest for K-State since seeding began in 1979, surpassing the previous high of a No. 4 seed in 1988. It marks just the sixth time that that Wildcats have earned a seeding of eight or better in the NCAA Tournament. In the program's 23 previous NCAA Tournaments, the squad has advanced to the Sweet 16 a total of 16 times, reached 11 Elite Eights, made four Final Four appearances and played in one NCAA title game.
The Wildcats were one a Big 12-record seven teams to earn berths in the NCAA Tournament, joining No. 1 seed Kansas, No. 3 seed Baylor (South), No. 5 seed Texas A&M (South), No. 7 seed Oklahoma State (Midwest), No. 8 seed Texas (East) and No. 10 seed Missouri (East) in the field.
A Quick Look at Kansas State
K-State has posted one of its greatest seasons ever in 2009-10, as the Wildcats have totaled a school-record 26 wins, including 11 in league play, en route to a tie for second place in the Big 12 and a runner-up finish in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. The 11 league wins as well as the second-place finish are the best ever in the Big 12 era and the best since the 1987-88 team finished second in the Big Eight with 11 conference victories. The trip to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship game was also a first since the inception of the league and the first since advancing to the Big Eight final in 1993. The win over Colorado on Feb. 13 gave the Wildcats a 20-win season for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season, including their 23rd all-time, while while it made Big 12 Coach of the Year Frank Martin the first head coach in school history to post 20 wins in each of his first three seasons. The squad has tallied five wins over teams ranked in the Top 25, which is tied with the 1950-51 team for as the highest total in school history, including one over the No. 1 team (Texas on Jan. 18) for just the third time ever. The Wildcats finished with an NCAA RPI of No. 6 and won 13 games away from the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum, including seven true road contests.
The Wildcats remained in the Top 10 in both major polls for the sixth consecutive week on Monday, as the Wildcats jumped two spots to seventh in The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. It marks the first time that the program has ranked among the AP Top 15 for 11 weeks in a row since the 1961-62 squad was ranked among the AP Top 10 for 15 weeks, while the team's 14-week stay in the AP Top 25 is the longest since the 1972-73 squad was ranked for 16 straight weeks. The squad earned their first Top 5 ranking in the AP poll since 1962 on March 1 at No. 5, while they recorded their highest ranking (No. 5) in the Coaches' poll since USA Today took over the poll in 1993-94 on the same date.
The squad is averaging just under 80 points per game (79.6 ppg.) on 45 percent shooting (868-of-1930), including 35.6 percent from 3-point range (222-of-624), with 39.1 rebounds, 14.8 assists, 7.3 steals and 4.8 blocks per game. The squad has topped 80 or more points in 19 of 33 games (including five 90-point outputs), while hitting on 45 percent or better from the field on 17 occasions. With 91 points effort against Nebraska on Feb. 17, the Wildcats topped 2,000 points scored for the fourth consecutive season, while the current total of 2,626 points is the best-ever single-season total in school history. Frank Martin-coached teams now hold three of the top-4 single-season scoring marks in school history. The 79.6 points per game average currently ranks second on the single-season scoring average chart just behind the school record of 81.4 points averaged during the 1952-53 campaign. The team has posted new school records for free throws made (668), free throws attempted (1,005) and blocked shots (157), while they rank in the Top 5 in five other school single-season categories, including offensive rebounds (500), defensive rebounds (789), 3-point field goals (222), 3-point field goal attempted (624) and steals (242).
K-State is averaging 33 points in the paint, while ranking first nationally in free throws made (20.2) and attempted per game (30.5) and free throws attempted and second in free throws made. The defensive effort has also been solid, holding foes to 69.4 points on 42.1 percent shooting, while averaging 20.4 points off of 16.9 turnovers per game. The squad has scored 20 or more points off turnovers in 17 games, including 14 of the last 24 contests, while the 40 points scored off turnovers against South Dakota on Jan. 3 are the most since the statistic began being kept in 2005-06.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with four double-figure scorers (Jacob Pullen, Denis Clemente, Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly) for the first time since the 1980-81 team of Rolando Blackman, Randy Reed, Tyrone Adams and Ed Nealy. The team has had six different leading scorers this season, while five players have tallied at least 10 double-digit scoring efforts led by Pullen's 33.
Named a third team All-American by The Sporting News and a consensus first team All-Big 12 selection, Pullen leads all scorers at 18.9 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting from the field to go with team bests in 20-point games (14), 3-point field goals (93), free throws (181), free throw percentage (80.8) and steals (53). He ranks among the school's single-season Top 10 for double-digit scoring games (second), 3-point field goals (second), free throws made (fourth), scoring average (sixth), points (seventh) and steals (seventh). Earlier this season, Pullen became the 21st player in school history, including the eighth guard, to score 1,000 career points, while his current total of 1,415 points in 100 career games ranks seventh all-time at K-State. One of just two players (Mitch Richmond) to score in double figures in at least 33 consecutive games, he is just the second player in school history (Steve Henson) with at least 1,000 points, 200 3-pointers, 300 assists and 100 steals in career.
A fourth team All-American by FOXSports.com and a second team all-league pick, Clemente is second in scoring at 16.2 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting from the field and is tops on the team in field goals (183), assists (139) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1). Twice named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week, he has become of the one of top transfers ever to play at K-State, ranking third for most points by a transfer (1,014). He is the 22nd player to top 1,000 points in a career, including just the sixth player in school history to do in a two-year career and the first since Mitch Richmond (1,327; 1986-88). He also ranks in the Top 10 for career 3-point field goals (136) and attempts (390).
The backcourt tandem of Clemente and Pullen has combined for over 40 percent of the scoring (1,158) this season, while historically, they are the second-most productive (as far as combined points per game at 35.1) guard tandems since former NBA players Mike Evans and Chuckie Williams combined to average 38.9 points per game between 1974-76. They are just third pair of teammates in school history to each eclipse 500 points in a season, joining Evans and Williams in 1975-76 and Cartier Martin and David Hoskins in 2006-07.
The winner of the Big 12's Sixth Man Award, sophomore Jamar Samuels ranks third in scoring at 11.9 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting from the field. Samuels, who has come off the bench in 31 of 32 games, ranks third on the squad in rebounding at 5.2 per game. He has scored in double figures in 24 of his 32 games played, including his fourth career double-double in the quarterfinal win over Oklahoma State on March 13 with a career-high 27 points and game-high 10 rebounds. Dubbed the "X-Factor" for his ability to change the game off the bench, 38 of Samuels' 39 double-digit scoring efforts have come as a reserve with K-State holding a solid 32-6 record in these contests. Junior transfer Curtis Kelly is the only other player averaging in double figures at 11.1 points per game. Kelly, who leads the squad with four double-doubles, is shooting a team-best 56.6 percent from the field and ranks first with 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. He is the school's single season blocks leader with 61. One of the Big 12's top defenders, junior Dominique Sutton is averaging 7.5 points on 48.9 percent shooting to go with 5.8 rebounds per game. He has three double-doubles, including a 14-point, 14-rebound effort in the win over No. 20/21 Baylor on March 12.
The Book on North Texas
North Texas enters Thursday's game with a 24-8 overall record and a 13-5 mark in Sun Belt Conference play after knocking off No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe (69-66), No. 6 Denver (63-56) and No. 1 Troy (66-63) en route to its second Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship. The team's 11-game winning streak ties for the third-longest (Oakland) active streak in the nation. The Mean Green haven't lost since a 69-64 setback in overtime at Middle Tennessee State on Jan. 30.
North Texas is averaging nearly 75 points per game (74.2) on the season on 46.1 percent shooting, including 33.5 percent from 3-point range, with 37.0 rebounds, 12.1 assists, 4.4 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. A very balanced squad with four players scoring in double figures, the Mean Green are paced by the 1-2 punch of juniors Josh White and Tristan Thompson, who are averaging 14.9 and 14.1 points per game. White is shooting 42.5 percent from the field, including 39.9 percent from the 3-point range, to go with 3.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 35.8 minutes per game. Thompson is shooting 42.9 percent, including 40.1 percent from 3-point range to go with 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 30.0 minutes per game. The two have combined for 114 3-pointers and 274 free throws. Senior forward Eric Tramiel is third in scoring at 13.0 points per game on 56 percent shooting to go with 5.9 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. Junior forward George Odufuwa averages a double-double with 11.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Shannon Shorter adds 6.4 points on 47.8 percent shooting and 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 23.4 minutes per game. The squad ranks just behind Kansas State in the free throws made (20.0) and attempted (27.8) per game.
North Texas is led by veteran head coach Johnny Jones, who has posted 150-120 (.556) mark at the helm of the Mean Green. He has led the school to four straight 20-win seasons, including this year's 24-8 mark. This is the second time he has led North Texas to the NCAA Tournament, guiding the Mean Green to a 23-11 record and a loss to No. 2 seed Memphis, 73-58, at the New Orleans Arena in 2006-07. He has a 165-136 (.548) record in his 10th season as a head coach, which includes a one-year stint as interim head coach at Memphis in 1999-2000 when he led the Tigers to a 15-16 mark. His Tiger squad lost to K-State in Manhattan, 62-61, on Dec. 8, 1999.
Series vs. North Texas
This will be the seventh all-time meeting between K-State and North Texas on the hardwood with the Wildcats holding a 5-1 edge in a series that dates back to 1972. K-State has won four straight in the series, including an 84-70 victory in the last meeting at home on Dec. 15, 2001. The two teams have met four times in Manhattan with the Wildcats winning all four times, while they have split the two meetings in Denton, Texas, with the Mean Green posting an 87-73 win on Dec. 6, 1976 and the Wildcats earning a 57-53 win on Jan. 4, 1986. The two schools have never met on a neutral site or in the NCAA Tournament. K-State is 16-1 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt Conference, including a 1-0 mark in games played in NCAA Tournament (Louisiana-Lafayette in 1973). This will mark the second time K-State has played in an NCAA Tournament game in Oklahoma City with the last coming to Marquette (L, 67-66) in the second round in 1977 at the Myriad, while this will be the third time the squad has played in Ford Center following the trips to the 2007 and 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships.
Possible Second Round Match-up
The winner of Thursday's first-round contest will get either No. 7 BYU (29-5, 13-3 MWC) or No. 10 Florida (21-12, 9-7 SEC) in the second round on Saturday. K-State has faced BYU six times, including once in the NCAA Tournament back in 1951, with the series tied at 3-all. The two teams have not met since the Cougars took a 73-64 win in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 23, 2002. The Wildcats have never faced Florida on the hardwood.
Experience is the Key
One of the biggest reasons for Kansas State this season has been its experience on the floor. The squad boasts a starting line-up (Denis Clemente, Jacob Pullen, Dominique Sutton, Curtis Kelly and Luis Colon) with a combined 511 games of experience, including 352 games as starters. The fivesome has started 19 of the last 21 games this season, while Clemente, Kelly and Pullen have started all 33 games. In fact, four of the five starters (Clemente, Colon, Pullen and Sutton) have been in the opening line-up in 30 in the last 32 Big 12 contests.
Most of the experience lies in the backcourt, where Clemente and Pullen have started 65 of the last 67 games for the Wildcats. The tandem has combined to play in 226 games in their respective careers, including 174 combined starts. Pullen has the team's longest active streaks for both games played (100) and starts (67), which both date back to his freshman season. He ranks seventh in school history in consecutive games played, while he is fourth in consecutive starts. He also places sixth in K-State history in career minutes played (2,832), while his 81 starts rank seventh all-time. He trails Steve Henson in both categories, who owns the school record in consecutive games played (127) and consecutive starts (118). Clemente, who played in 61 games with 28 starts in two years at Miami (Fla.) from 2005-07, boasts 126 games of experience to go with 93 starts in his career. There is also plenty of experience in the frontcourt where Colon and Sutton have combined to play in 201 games in the past three seasons. Sutton has played in 74 consecutive games (which ranks second on the team), including starts in 68 of the last 71 games. Colon, who was one of only two players (Pullen) to start in all 34 games a year ago, has seen action in 115 games in his K-State career, including 72 starts. The only starter without experience beyond this season is junior Curtis Kelly, who sat out last season after transferring from UConn.
Experience can also be found on the bench, where regular reserves Chris Merriewether and Jamar Samuels have combined to play in 163 games in their careers. A former walk-on, Merriewether has played in 97 games with six starts, including action in 85 of the last 100 contests. Samuels, who has come off the bench in all but three games in his career, has seen action in 66 of the last 67 games for the Wildcats. Four-year seniors Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether, who have won 92 games in their career, became the outright winningest senior class in school history in the victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 23, breaking a tie they had with Fred Barton (88; 1976-78; 1979-81) on the school's all-time list.
Although known for the guard tandem of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, Kansas State has shown an ability to have multiple players involved in the scoring output this season. The Wildcats have seen four or more players score in double figures 23 times this season, including five or more double-digit scorers in eight contests. Even though Pullen (33) and Clemente (30) have been the consistent double-digit scoring threats, six other players have registered at least one double figure scoring game this season, including Jamar Samuels (24), Curtis Kelly (21), Dominique Sutton (10), Rodney McGruder (six), Wally Judge (four) and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts (once). The Wildcats own a 20-3 mark in games when four or more players tally double digits, while they are 7-1 when five players are in twin figures. In all, the squad has seen at least seven players score in every game (including five games with 10 or more) this season, including at least four players scoring five or more points in each contest.
Kansas State has shown the ability to be a solid rebounding team, as the Wildcats rank fourth in the Big 12 with an average of 39.1 rebounds per game. The squad is tied for league leader at 15.1 offensive boards per game, while they are fourth in rebounding margin (+5.1). The Wildcats have grabbed 40 or more rebounds 14 times, including in nine of the last 21 games, while they have tallied 20 or more offensive boards four times. The team posted 50 or more rebounds in back-to-back games against Cleveland State and South Dakota for the first time in back-to-back games since the 2007-08 season, while the Wildcats grabbed 50 against the Big 12's top rebounding squad (then No. 1/1 Texas) on Jan. 18, including 19 offensive boards which translated into a 23-10 edge in second chance points. The offensive rebound chances have helped the team average over 14 points per game (13.8) in second chance points, including 20 or more second chance points on five occasions this season.
Seizing on its Opportunities
Kansas State has capitalized this season on its opportunities from the free throw line, where the Wildcats rank first nationally with 1,005 free throws attempted, 20.2 free throws made per game and 30.5 free throws attempted per game. The squad is 42 attempts ahead of Morgan State (963) for the lead nationally, while they just ahead of North Texas (20.0) in makes per game and Cal State Northridge (29.2) in attempts per game. The team is second nationally in free throws made with 668, trailing leader Morgan State (677), which has played three more contests.
K-State has broke the single-season marks for both free throws made and attempted, shattering the 51-year-old mark for makes (606; 1958-59) with 33 against Iowa State on March 6. The squad broke the record for free throws attempted (862; 2008-09) for the second straight season with 34 against Missouri on Feb. 27. This is a growing trend for Frank Martin-coached teams, where his previous two squads rank among the top 10 in both single-season free throws (fifth and seventh) and attempts (second and eighth).
The team has connected on 20 or more free throws in 20 of their 33 games, including 16 of the last 26 contests, while they have attempted at least 30 free throws in 18 games. The Wildcats made the most of their opportunities in the win over Nebraska on Feb. 17, converting on a season-high 80 percent (32-of-40) from the stripe, including 14-of-14 in the last five minutes of the game. It marked just the third time this season that the squad has made 30 or more free throws, while it was the seventh time they had at least 40 attempts in a contest. The team set near records for both categories in a win at Colorado on Jan. 16 with 38 makes on 54 attempts. The 38 free throws are the fourth-most in school history (most-ever in a road venue) and the second-most in the Big 12 era behind the 39 against Baylor at home on Feb. 13, 1999. The 54 attempts are the third-most in school history (most-ever in a league game) and the most since the Wildcats set the school mark with 56 against Purdue on Dec. 1, 1958.
Head coach Frank Martin has changed the culture in many ways at Kansas State, including how the Wildcats play on the road. The squad has been one of the most successful teams in the Big 12 when playing on the road this season, posting an 13-4 mark away from Bramlage Coliseum this season, including a 7-2 mark in 'true' road games and a 6-2 mark in Big 12 road contests. The 13 wins away from home are the most by a Big 12 team this season and the most by a K-State team since 1987-88, while the 6-2 mark in Big 12 road games trails just Kansas for the best in the league. The squad, who guaranteed themselves a winning road mark in league play for the first time in the Big 12 era and the first time since the 1987-88 season with the win over Oklahoma on Feb. 20, won six straight road league games for the first time since the 1963-64 season. The six league road wins are the most since the 1975-76. This is nothing new for Frank Martin-coached teams, which won 13 Big 12 road games since the 2007-08 season, which is just one short (14) of the entire total the school had the Big 12's first 11 seasons from 1996-97 to 2006-07.
Second Half Surge
One of the biggest factors in K-State's seven-game winning streak was its ability to pick up its pace in the second half. The Wildcats averaged 43.7 points in the second half of their seven wins on 53.2 percent shooting (99-of-186), including 50 percent (34-of-68) from 3-point range. This is in stark comparison to the first half, where the team averaged 33.9 points on 39.2 percent shooting (85-of-217), including just 22.9 percent (16-of-70) from beyond the arc, in this same seven-game span. K-State scored at least 40 or more points in the second half in each of these seven games and combined to out-score their foes, 306-241. This comes after holding just a 237-214 edge over these foes at the half. The squad were able to overcome halftime deficits (Iowa State & Nebraska) twice in the span to post wins after starting the year 0-3 when trailing at the half. This trend was reversed in the loss at No. 2 Kansas, as the squad shot 50 percent in the first half compared to a season-low 29.2 percent in the second half. For the year, the team is averaging 42.4 points in the second half on 48.5 percent shooting, including 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
Points Off Turnovers
A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams are their ability to score points off of opponent's mistakes. Since he became coach, the Wildcats have scored 1,914 points off of 1,673 turnovers in 100 games, an average of 19.1 points per game. Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in the past three years have come off of offense generated from turnovers. In 2007-08, the Wildcats scored 18.9 points per game off of 16.2 turnovers per game, while in 2008-09, the team scored 25.7 points off of an average of 17.0 turnovers. This season has been no different with the squad averaging 20.4 points off of 16.9 opponent mistakes per game. K-State has scored 20+ points off of turnovers 17 times, including a school-record 40 against South Dakota on Jan. 3. The team also scored 20 or more points off of turnovers against Loyola (29), IUPUI (28), WSU (39), UNLV (26), Alabama (22), UAPB (29), Cleveland State (30), Texas A&M (23), Colorado (23 & 26), Nebraska (22 & 29), Oklahoma (23) and Missouri (21), OSU (23) and Baylor (22). The Wildcats have a 43-5 record when scoring 20+ points off turnovers under Martin, including 17-0 this season.
Right Man, Right Time
Senior Denis Clemente seems to play his best basketball against the best competition. He was just edged out by Jacob Pullen as the team's leading scorer in Big 12 play, averaging 17.7 points on 40 percent shooting (94-of-235), including 35.5 percent (44-of-124) from 3-point range, this year. This has included a stretch in the Big 12's last nine games, in which, he averaged 19.3 points on 43.3 percent shooting, including 39.2 percent from beyond the arc. In all, he scored in double figures in 15 of 16 league games, including six 20-point outings. For his career, he was even better in Big 12 contests, averaging 18.1 points on 41.1 percent shooting (192-of-467), including 37.7 percent (80-of-212) from 3-point range, in 32 career games. He scored in double figures in 29 of these conference games, including 10 20-point games. He also led the Wildcats in scoring 16 times in this span. In comparison, he is averaging just 12.8 points in his 30 career non-conference games on 38.1 percent shooting (136-of-357), including 30.4 percent (48-of-158) from beyond the arc. He has scored in double figures 21 times in these games with four 20-point outings. This season, he averaged 14.1 points during non-league play on 37.9 percent shooting, including 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Quite A Duo
Senior Denis Clemente and junior Jacob Pullen have become quite the scoring duo for the Wildcats in their two seasons together. The two have combined to score 2,429 points in just over one season together, including finishing first and second on the team in scoring in 2008-09. They have combined to average 35.1 points per game through 33 games this season, including Pullen's team-leading 18.9 points per game. The duo ranks as the third-highest scoring backcourt in the Big 12 in both overall (35.1 ppg.) and league-only games (35.5 ppg.), trailing Colorado's Cory Higgins and Alec Burks and Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter. The 35.1-point average is the third-highest by a guard duo in school history, trailing Chuckie Williams and Mike Evans in both 1974-75 (39.1) and 1975-76 (38.8) and ahead of Askia Jones and Anthony Beane in 1993-94 (33.5). They are the second-most productive (as far as combined points per game at 29.8) guard tandem in school history since Evans and Williams combined to average 38.9 points per game for the Wildcats between 1974-76. Clemente and Pullen has combined to score at least 20 points 59 times in 65 games dating back to last season, including 30 or more points on 42 occasions and 40 or more points 15 times. The duo combined for 50 points for the second time this season in the win over No. 21/20 Baylor on March 12, as the two combined for 50 points on 56.7 percent shooting from the field, including 47.1 percent from 3-point range. The duo has toppped 20 or more points in the same contest five times, including Kansas twice (Feb. 19, 2009 and March 3, 2010), No. 18/21 Dayton on Nov. 22, 2009 and WSU on Dec. 5, 2009 and Baylor on March 12.
Pullen Moving Up the Charts
Junior Jacob Pullen is nearing several career milestone as he is in the midst of his third season. After his 26-point effort against Baylor on March 12, he became just the seventh player in school history to eclipse 1,400 career points and the first since Cartier Martin (1,546; 2003-07) in 2006. His current total of 1,415 points in 100 games ranks seventh all-time on the scoring list, as he passed Chuckie Williams (1,364; 1972-76) with 19 points against Oklahoma State on March 11. If he keeps up his current scoring average (13.7 ppg.), he would finish in the Top 5 just behind Mike Evans (2,115; 1974-78), Rolando Blackman (1,844; 1977-81) and Askia Jones (1,834; 1989-94) with over 1,700 points. He became the 21st player to tally 1,000 career points, including the eighth guard, with his fourth 3-point field goal of the first half against Alabama on Dec. 19.
Pullen ranks in the top 5 in both 3-point field goals made and attempted in school history, ranking second in attempts with 598 and third in makes with 208. He now only trails Askia Jones (624 attempts; 1989-94) in career attempts, while he joined Steve Henson (240; 1987-90) and Jones (237) as the only players with 200 or more 3-point field goals in school history with his performance at the Big 12 Championship. By topping 200 3-pointers, Pullen joined Henson as the only players in school history with at least 1,000 points, 200 3-pointers, 300 assists and 100 steals in a career. In addition to moving up several scoring charts, Pullen is also ascending the school's record book in several other career categories. He ranks second in steals with 147, trailing just all-time leader Steve Henson (190; 1986-90), while he is third in assists with 331. He places in the top-10 in six other categories, including fifth in free throws made (335), sixth in minutes played (2,832) and free throws attempted (441), seventh in double-digit scoring games (72), eighth in field goals attempted (1,093) and ninth in field goals made (436).
Kelly a Key Factor Down Low
Junior Curtis Kelly is starting to develop his game down low for the Wildcats after sitting out the 2008-09 season after transferring from UConn. A starter in all 33 games, Kelly is third on the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game on a team-best 56.6 percent shooting to go with team-bests in rebounds (6.3) and blocks (1.8) per game. He continued his solid play against Missouri on Feb. 27, recording his fourth double-double (his second in Big 12 play) with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists, three blocks and two steals in 34 minutes. The leader in double-doubles, Kelly also performed the feat in back-to-back games against Ole Miss (18 points, 10 rebounds) on Nov. 20 and IUPUI (11 points, 11 rebounds) on Nov. 28 and also against Colorado on Feb. 13. He also had a solid effort in the win over No. 1 Texas on Jan. 18, scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 field goals with eight rebounds and two blocks. He was also the principle defender of Texas' Damion James, holding the first team All-Big 12 performer to just nine points on 3-of-12 field goals with seven rebounds and four turnovers. In all, Kelly has scored in double figures 21 times, including in key wins against Xavier (15) and UNLV (13), while he has led the team in rebounding 11 times. He has shot over 60 percent in 16 games, including connecting on 85.7 percent (6-of-7) against Iowa State on March 6 with Big 12-high 19 points. He had a season-high 22 points in the opener against Loyola Chicago. He set the school's single-season record for blocked shots with 60th in the win over No. 21/20 Baylor in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. He has at least two blocks in 16 games, including a career-best six against South Dakota.
Sophomore Jamar Samuels proved himself one of the top bench scorers in the country this season, as his near 12-point, five-rebound average earned him the Big 12's Sixth Man Award from the league coaches on March 6. He is the second Wildcat to win the award and the first since Cartier Martin in 2007. Samuels, who is third in scoring at 11.9 points per game, had a breakout game in the win over Oklahoma State on March 11, posting his fourth career double-double with a career-best 27 points on 7-of-9 field goals with a game-high 10 rebounds. He also played well in the win over No. 1 Texas on Jan. 18, earning his first double-double of the year with 20 points and a career-best 12 rebounds against one of the best frontcourt tandems (Damion James and Dexter Pittman) in the nation. The 20-point outing was the fourth of his career and just one point off the 21 he scored against Fort Hays State on Dec. 1, while his 12-rebound effort was just the second double-digit rebounding game of his career. He grabbed his third double-double in the win over Texas Tech on Feb. 27 with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. This season, he has scored 10 or more points 24 times with 23 of those coming off the bench, including in 19 of the last 25 games. For his career, 38 of Samuels' 39 double-digit scoring efforts have come as a reserve. He is averaging 9.9 points on 55.1 percent (199-of-361) in 63 games off the bench, including 11.6 points per game on a team-best 57.8 percent shooting (108-of-187) this season. He was solid in Big 12 play, averaging 11.1 points on 54.9 percent shooting (62-of-113) and 5.4 rebounds per game. His 62 field goals in conference-only play ranked fourth on the squad.
Martin, Three Wildcats Earn All-Big 12 Honors
Junior Jacob Pullen and senior Denis Clemente were named to the Coaches' All-Conference team, sophomore Jamar Samuels was announced as the winner of the Sixth Man Award and Frank Martin was named Coach of the Year, as the Big 12 office announced its awards on March 7.
Pullen became just the second men's basketball player to earn first team All-Big 12 honors since the inception of the league in 1997, joining former teammate Michael Beasley who received the award in 2008. The leading scorer at 18.9 points per game also earned first team accolades from The Associated Press, Kansas City Star, Yahoo! Sports and The Sporting News. He was also selected to the six-man All-Defensive Team. He has averaged 18.9 points on 41.6 percent shooting, including 38.4 percent from 3-point range, to go with 3.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 31.3 minutes per game. He has led the squad in double-figure scoring (33), 20-point games (14), 3-point field goals (93) and steals (53).
Clemente was named to the league's second team for the second consecutive season. He has averaged 16.2 points on 40.2 percent shooting, including 33.6 percent from 3-point range, with a team-best 4.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 34 minutes per game. He scored in double figures in 30 games, including 10 20-point games. He was also named to the Kansas City Star's second team and to Yahoo! Sports' third team.
Samuels becomes the second Wildcat to earn the Sixth Man Award following Cartier Martin in 2007. The third-leading scorer at 11.9 points per game, he scored in double figures off the bench in 23 games, including three 20-point efforts and four double-doubles. He ranks third on the team in rebounding at 5.2 per game. He had a breakout game in the win over No. 1 Texas with 20 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Martin was named Big 12 Coach of the Year by both the league coaches, The Associated Press and The Sporting News. He is the first coach since Dana Altman in 1993 to earn league Coach of the Year honors, while he is the fifth coach overall to earn the distinction, following Tex Winter (1958, 1959, 1960), Cotton Fitzsimmons (1970), Jack Hartman (1975, 1977) and Altman, in school history.
Clemente Among Best Transfers
Senior Denis Clemente eclipsed the career 1,000-point barrier with a pair of free throws just over a minute into the IUPUI game on Nov. 28, 2009 then became the school's 22nd 1,000-point scorer and just the sixth in a two-year playing career (and first since Mitch Richmond in 1987-88) with 17 points against top-ranked Kansas on March 13. Clemente, who transferred after playing two seasons at Miami (Fla.), has totaled 1,014 points his two-year career on 40.4 percent shooting (350-of-867) from the field, including 34.9 percent (136-of-390) from 3-point range, in 65 games. He broke into the school's top 10 for career points by a transfer with his 23-point effort against Nebraska on Feb. 2, surpassing Elliot Hatcher (803; 1994-96). He currently ranks third on the list, trailing Mitch Richmond (1,327; 1986-88) and Willie Murrell (1,112; 1962-64). He has also cracked the school's Top 10 in 3-point field goals, ranking sixth in attempts (390) and seventh in makes (136).
Clemente Named Big 12 Player of the Week Twice
Senior Denis Clemente was the named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks on Feb. 22 when he shared the honor with Oklahoma State's James Anderson. He helped run the Wildcats' winning streak to five games with victories over Nebraska (91-87) and Oklahoma (83-68) from Feb 20-23. He averaged 24.0 points on 53.1 percent shooting (17-of-32), including 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from 3-point range, in the two wins with 4.5 assists, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 36.5 minutes per game.
Clemente began the week by scoring a game-tying 21 points in helping the squad sweep the season series from Nebraska for the first time since the 2003-04 season on Feb. 17. He connected on 6-of-14 field goals, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range, with three assists and three steals in 38 minutes. He followed with a game-high 27 points in the Wildcats' second straight win at the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday. He went 11-of-18 from the field, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, with a game-high six assists and two rebounds in 35 minutes.
Clemente, who has three career Big 12 Player of the Week honors, earned his first award this season on Feb. 7 in helping the squads to road wins at Nebraska (76-57) and Iowa State (79-75). He averaged 26.5 points on 50 percent shooting (16-of-32), including 64.7 percent (11-of-17) from 3-point range, in the two wins with 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 36.0 minutes per game. He posted just his second career 30-point game in the Wildcats' fourth straight win at Iowa State on Feb. 6, while it was his highest point total since tying the Big 12 record with 44 against Texas on Jan. 31, 2009. He was also named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Feb. 8 for his efforts, marking the second time in his career he has been named a National Player of the Week after he earned the honor from ESPN.com on Feb. 2, 2009.
The D Stands for Defense
Junior Dominique Sutton is starting to state his case as one of the premier defenders not just in the Big 12 but nationally. Regularly assigned the opponent's top offensive performer for much of his career, he has established himself as a top-line defender this season. He has been assigned to defend the likes of Washington State's Klay Thompson, Xavier's Jordan Crawford, UNLV's Derrick Jasper, Colorado's Alec Burks, Kansas' Xavier Henry, Iowa State's Marquis Gilstrap and Missouri's Zaire Taylor. Sutton has held his opponents to a collective 38.7 shooting percentage (87-of-225), including a 28.1 percentage (18-of-64) mark from 3-point range, this season. Thompson, who entered the game on Dec. 5 as the nation's second-leading scorer at 26.4 points per game, shot just 5-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-4 from long range, with nine turnovers. Crawford had 16 points (five from the line) against Sutton, but shot just 5-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range, with three turnovers. Jasper was held scoreless for the first time in his UNLV career, going 0-of-3. He was also solid on Big 12 Newcomer of the Year candidate Marquis Gilstrap, who was 4-of-16 from the field, including just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, with 18 points in the first meeting on Feb. 6. He also played a role in the defense of Texas A&M star Donald Sloan, who was held to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting with three turnovers on Jan. 12.
Colon Back to Action
Senior Luis Colon made his long awaited debut against No. 18/17 UNLV on Dec. 12, scoring one point and grabbing five rebounds in 11 minutes of action off the bench. Colon, who was also hurt in the preseason, missed the first nine games off the season due to an off-the-court issue that has since been resolved. A key cog to the Wildcat attack last season, he was one of two players (along with Jacob Pullen) to start all 34 games a year ago, averaging 4.4 points on 47.7 percent shooting with 4.7 rebounds per game. Colon, who is averaging 2.9 points and 4.0 rebounds, has started 20 of the last 21 games, including 19 straight games dating back to the Missouri game on Jan. 9. His biggest impact has been on the defensive end of the court, where he played a huge role in limiting Texas' Dexter Pittman to six points and seven rebounds in the win on Jan. 18.
Knocking Off No. 1
With its 71-62 win over top-ranked Texas on Jan. 18, Kansas State knocked off a No. 1 team for just the third time in school history and the first time since beating No. 1 Kansas, 68-64, at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 17, 1994. It was the second win over a No. 1 team on the Bramlage Coliseum floor (including the first match-up of Top 10 teams in the arena's 22-year history) and the first since defeating No. 1 Missouri, 65-58, on Feb. 8, 1990. The contest against the Longhorns was 16th in the program's history against the No. 1 team and the first since losing to top-ranked Kansas on Feb. 27, 2002. The Wildcats are now 3-12 (.200) all-time against No. 1 teams with all three wins coming in the last seven meetings with a top-ranked squad. The game was also just the third match-up with a No. 1 team when K-State was also ranked, including just the second time when ranked in the Top 10. Those other occasions were both losses, as the then fourth-ranked Wildcats lost to top-ranked Kentucky in the NCAA Championship in Minneapolis on March 27, 1951 and when No. 14 K-State lost at home to No. 1 Missouri on Jan. 30, 1982.
Martin Named Finalist For Jim Phelan Coach of the Year
Head coach Frank Martin was named one of 15 finalists for the 2010 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award on March 8. The mid-season honoree for the award, he was joined on the list by fellow Big 12 coaches, Kansas' Bill Self and Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon. Named the Big 12 Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches, The Associated Press and The Sporting News, Martin has guided K-State to a school-record 26 victories, a tie for second place in the nation's top conference with a Big 12 era-best 11 wins and an appearance in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship game. The squad's second-place finish and No. 2 seed at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship are also the highest since the 1987-88 season. The team earned their first Top 5 ranking since 1962 on March 1 when they rose to No. 5 in each poll, while they remained in the Top 10 for the seventh straight week on Monday at No. 7, including the sixth in both major polls. Martin guided K-State to just third-ever win over a No. 1 team and the first since 1994 with a 71-62 victory over then No. 1 Texas on Jan. 18. The win over No. 24 Baylor on Jan. 24 gave the Wildcats four wins over Top 25 teams for the first time in a regular season. The five wins over Top 25 teams this season tie for the second-most in school history.
Although it was ended at Missouri on Jan. 9, K-State posted its longest winning streak in more than 15 years earlier this season when the team won 10 straight from Nov. 22, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010. The 10-game winning streak was the longest since also winning 10 in a row during the 1993-94 season and just the 15th double-digit winning streak in school history. The squad completed December perfect for just the eighth time and the first time since the 1998-99 season with their 85-56 win over Cleveland State on Dec. 29. During the streak, the team knocked off two ranked non-conference teams (No. 18/21 Dayton on Nov. 22 and No. 18/17 UNLV on Dec. 12) for the first time since the 1958-59 season (beat No. 4 N.C. State and No. 14 St. Joseph's on consecutive days on Dec. 19-20, 1958). The 13 non-conference wins tie for the 1993-94 team for the most in school history, while the .928 non-league winning percentage is the best. He now has the most wins by a head coach in his first three seasons, surpassing Lon Kruger, while the win over Colorado on Feb. 13 made him the first K-State coach to have three 20-win seasons to start a career.