(AP) — Kansas State hopes the return of one of their better players from a long suspension will be enough to avoid a third straight loss and allow it to stay ranked for one more week.
Curtis Kelly is expected to play for the 21st-ranked Wildcats on Saturday when they welcome Texas Tech to Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State (12-5, 0-2 Big 12) had won 10 of its first 11, with the only loss coming to then top-ranked Duke on Nov. 23. The Wildcats, who opened the season ranked third, were fifth on Dec. 18 when they posted a 68-60 win at Loyola of Chicago.
Five days later, though, leading scorer Jacob Pullen (17.7 points per game) was suspended for three games and Kelly six for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store. Without Kelly, Kansas State has gone 3-3 with wins against lightly regarded UMKC, North Florida and Savannah State.
Pullen said Kelly – a senior forward averaging 10.3 points and 4.0 rebounds – would be a welcome addition.
“If he comes out focused, prepared, ready to play, it should mean a lot,” said Pullen. “If he comes out and knows what’s going on, then we’re in the same boat.”
The Wildcats can certainly use him. After shooting 34.8 percent during a 14-point loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday, Kansas State shot 40.4 percent Wednesday in a 74-66 defeat to Colorado – the Buffaloes’ first road win over a ranked team in 14 years.
Pullen, who scored a team-high 22 points, had a team-high five turnovers and felt some basic fundamentals were missing.
“Definitely, there were a lot of times defensively when we weren’t doing what we were supposed to, getting to the ball, problems with rebounding, lack of focus, not knowing who is on the court, not finding shooters, just lazy mistakes,” he said.
The Wildcats are trying to avoid their first three-game skid in the conference since opening with four straight losses in 2009. Kansas State has won two straight over Texas Tech after a five-game slide from 2004-08.
Texas Tech (8-9, 0-2) has been throughly outplayed in its first two Big 12 games this season.
The Red Raiders shot 35.8 percent from the field Saturday in a 71-59 loss to Baylor, then connected on 39.0 percent of their shots in an 83-52 defeat to No. 12 Texas on Tuesday.
“We just have to keep working, you can’t do much else,” Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. “We have to work on shooting and everything else as a whole. We have to do more and demand more from everybody else and show everybody else how to play if that means pulling everybody along with us then that’s what we have to do.”
The Red Raiders are last in the conference in field-goal percentage at 43.7 percent and 10th in 3-point shooting at 32.8.
Mike Singletary (13.2 points per game) and Brad Reese (12.0) are the Red Raiders’ top two scorers, but both will try to bounce back after each scoring five points against Longhorns.
Texas Tech has lost nine straight on the road to ranked opponents in the Big 12.