AUSTIN (Sports Network) – Jacob Pullen played nearly one handed, scoring 20 points and helping Kansas State cement its at-large candidacy with a 75-70 victory over suddenly-skidding, seventh-ranked Texas, 75-70.
Pullen used his right hand to brace his fall on a drive to the rim with 5:55 to play, injuring his right wrist and going to the bench for mere seconds before returning. He used his left hand on several drives following the injury and held his wrist in agony during stoppages in play, but never sat again.
The game was too important to the Wildcats (21-9, 9-6 Big 12), who have awoken from what seemed to be a season-long slumber to post their fifth straight victory. Three of those wins have come over Kansas, Missouri and now Texas. The Wildcats also recorded their first road victory over a Top 10 team since 1994.
“I am very proud of the guys in that locker room. They have never stopped believing in the spirit of our team,” said Wildcats head coach Frank Martin. “Regardless of what situations came about, whether we created them ourselves, whether we played someone that was better than us on a given night, those kids’ spirits were never broken.”
Pullen scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, Rodney McGruder led the way with 22 points and Curtis Kelly chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Tristan Thompson scored a career-high 26 points with 10 rebounds, Jordan Hamilton donated 14 points and nine rebounds and J’Covan Brown added 11 points for the Longhorns (24-6, 12-3), who have lost two straight and three of four overall.
“I’m concerned about the way we are playing basketball,” stated Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes. “We are better than what we are playing and that is the biggest concern. It’s pretty simple. It’s execution on both ends.”
Kansas State held multiple seven-point leads in the early stages of the second half, holding a 45-38 lead on Jordan Henriquez-Roberts’ short jumper near the 13 1/2-minute mark. The margin inched up to eight on several other occasions, including at 57-49 on Shane Southwell’s pull-up with just under eight minutes to go.
Pullen injured himself on a drive to the rim with just under six minutes to play, and Thompson’s slam on the other end cut the deficit to 62-55. Hamilton followed with a three to draw the Longhorns within four, and Thompson’s foul shot a moment later cut the margin to one possession. Southwell again connected to stop the bleeding, and Pullen attacked the rim with the left dribble and the finish with his left hand for a 66-59 lead.
Brown’s long three in the final minute cut the deficit to 72-67, but Pullen calmly sank two free throws at the other end. Again Brown drained a three- pointer, this one with 24.6 seconds to go, for a four-point margin. Pullen connected on 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, and Texas misfired on several attempts in the final seconds.
Thompson’s slam capped five successive points for an early 20-14 lead, but the Wildcats fought back to force a 23-23 stalemate on McGruder’s three-pointer. Texas again extended out to a five-point edge at 29-24 on Thompson’s slam with about 3 1/2 minutes left. McGruder’s three-pointer in the final seconds cut Kansas State’s deficit to 33-31, and the Wildcats scored the final eight points of the second half to take control.
Kansas State started the conference campaign at 2-5 and has since won seven of eight league games…Hamilton is 15-of-58 in his last three games, including a 5-of-18 effort in this loss…Texas made just 33.8 percent of its shots, but stayed in the game thanks to 19 offensive rebounds…The Wildcats made 50 percent of their shots and 16-of-21 foul shots, an improvement for a team that entered the game shooting just 64.3 percent from the charity stripe, sitting 301st nationally in that category…Other than Thompson, the Longhorns made only 14-of-54 shots…Kansas State connected on 57.7 percent of its second- half shots.