MANHATTAN, Kan. - Thanks to a remarkable game by Jacob Pullen, Kansas State's "lost" season may have been found and Kansas' stay at No. 1 may be short.
Pullen, a 6-foot senior guard, scored a career-high 38 points Monday night and led a wire-to-wire charge that sparked the troubled Wildcats to a stunning 84-68 victory over Kansas — just their third win in 45 games against an instate rival that has dominated them for decades and beat them by 24 less than a month ago.
The game came just hours after the Jayhawks replaced Ohio State atop The Associated Press' poll.
Hundreds of fans stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded, creating a temporary mob scene that knocked several media outlets off line.
"I just tried to take good looks, tried to be patient, not overly aggressive but take the shots that were given to me," said Pullen, who was 5 for 6 from the 3-point arc and hit 15 of 19 foul shots. "My teammates did a good job of keeping them honest so they couldn't overly help."
Pullen's total was just one point shy of the 39 that Elvin Hayes scored for Houston against No. 1 UCLA in 1968, which Kansas State research indicated is the most ever scored in a victory over a top-ranked team.
"Shots were falling for me," Pullen said. "I'll take it if people want to say it was my best game. I felt good how we were playing as a team. Other people were stepping up, creating shots off the dribble."
Kansas State shot 56 percent from the field Monday night while upsetting the Jayhawks, who had won 22 of 23 in Bramlage Coliseum.
"Let's just call it what it is. That was a beatdown," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "That was a beatdown. In my opinion, I thought they controlled the game from early on."
Pullen, who ranks in the top five in 17 career categories for Kansas State, had 23 points in a take-charge first half that propelled the Wildcats (17-9, 5-6 Big 12) to a nine-point halftime lead.
Kansas (24-2, 9-2) was unable to get its vaunted inside game in gear after its top scorers, Marcus and Markieff Morris, got in early foul trouble.
Kansas beat Kansas State 90-66 on Jan. 29, but this time the Wildcats, led by an indomitable Pullen, took control from the start.
Pullen, whose previous career high was 34 points, scored in almost possible way in what may have been his finest game as a Wildcat. He also had five assists.
Tyrel Reed had 14 points for Kansas. Marcus Morris had 13 points but Markieff had only three points, and the Big 12's leading rebounder did not get one board.
"Jacob played great," Reed said. "We couldn't stop him. He got to the line 19 times. Give a lot of credit to him. He was the best player in the game."
The unlikely victory halted at least for the moment what had been looking like a disappointing season for Pullen and Kansas State.
Ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll with Pullen the school's first preseason All-America, the Wildcats instead tumbled out of the rankings amid dissension and suspension. Two players have left the team and Pullen was suspended for three games in December for inappropriate discounts at a local clothing store.
But all that was forgotten before a loud, packed house Monday night when Pullen led a first-half 21-6 spree that put the Wildcats in charge for good.
"This game meant a lot for our season," said Rodney McGruder, who had 10 points, including two straight baskets that halted a budding second-half run by the Jayhawks. "This could be a turning point for our season."
Kansas came in leading the nation in shooting at 52.3 percent but the Jayhawks shot only 44 percent against Kansas State.
"If you look at the positive side, we held them to 46 points if Jacob didn't play," Self said with a weak grin. "I don't know that kid very well, but he's got 38 against a team that doesn't deserve to be ranked No. 1 in the country."
With about 12 minutes left, the Wildcats started getting in foul trouble, with Curtis Kelly, McGruder, Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts all having three. Samuels picked up his fourth at the 11:33 mark. But Markieff Morris, having his worst game of the season, made only one free throw and the Wildcats led 60-47.
Then, with the crowd getting louder and louder, McGruder scored on a putback and after a Kansas miss, Pulln made it 65-47 with a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down.
Just as they had done in losing to No. 3 Texas on Jan. 22, the Jayhawks had trouble pounding the ball inside. The Morris twins had two fouls apiece 9 minutes into the game and the Jayhawks were missing 6-9 sophomore Thomas Robinson, who is out with a knee injury. Markieff Morris played only 8 minutes in the first half and didn't score.
Pullen's top game in the Big 12 this season was 22 points, a figure he reached with almost 5 minutes to go in the first half. The 6-0 senior had 11 points in the early run, getting it started with a steal that Shane Southwell converted into a basket. Pullen then drilled two straight 3-pointers and was fouled on another attempt from behind the arc. He made all three foul shots before finishing the flurry with two free throws when Markieff Morris was called for an intentional foul.
Henriquez-Roberts and McGruder both had 10 points.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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