No. 12 Kansas St. 85, Cleveland St. 56

For a better start than this one, Kansas State has to go way,

way back.

Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly sparked a huge run in the first

half and the 12th-ranked Wildcats swamped Cleveland State 85-56 on

Tuesday night for their ninth straight victory. The 12-1 start ties

the 1958-59 team for second-best in school history. The only thing

in school annals that was better was a 17-0 getaway in 1918-19.

“It means a lot to be a part of something special,” said

Dominique Sutton, who had 13 points and was one of five

double-figure scorers. “Going back two years ago, nobody thought

we would turn out to be this good because Mike (Beasley) and Bill

(Walker) were gone. It just shows all the hard work we’ve put in

through the summers and the hard practices that we had, it’s paying

off for us.”

Pullen had 18 points and Kelly added 17 as the Wildcats closed

out an unbeaten December with their first nine-game win streak

since 1997. Denis Clemente also had 13 points for the Wildcats, who

have reached their highest national ranking since the end of the

1972-73 season.

Enthusiasm for this team that was picked no higher than fourth

in the Big 12 preseason poll is spreading. Even though students are

on Christmas break, a sellout crowd of 12,528 jammed Bramlage

Coliseum.

“Our fans are unbelievable,” coach Frank Martin said. “It

makes me proud that on Dec. 29, understanding the places that our

fans come from to get to these games, on a Tuesday night we packed

this place. That’s rewarding to our players.”

Kansas State, unbeaten since dropping an 86-74 decision to

Mississippi on Nov. 20, outscored the Vikings 25-5 in the run that

led to a 40-19 halftime lead. The Vikings (4-10), facing a ranked

team for the school-record third straight game, went almost 8

minutes without a field goal and never got back in a game that was

so physical Jeremy Montgomery knocked Pullen to the floor twice

within a few seconds but got only one foul.

“There were a couple of hard fouls,” Martin said. “But it’s

basketball. I never thought there was anything cheap. Cheap is one

thing. Physical is something else.”

Montgomery had 20 points for Cleveland State and Norris Cole had

17.

“We turned the ball over a lot,” Montgomery said. “We need to

go back to practice and work on that.”

After Montgomery’s two free throws sliced the Wildcats’ lead to

15-14, Clemente canned a long 3-pointer that got a roar from the

big crowd and then stole the ball on the other end and made two

foul shots to get the run going.

Pullen added a 3-pointer, Kelly made two free throws and

suddenly Kansas State held a 25-14 lead and the Vikings were en

route to their 33rd loss in 38 games against ranked teams.

Kansas State quickly built the lead to 30 points in the second

half when Wally Judge canned two free throws after a rough foul

beneath the Wildcats’ basket. Montgomery answered with a 3-pointer

but Pullen got the lead back to 30 a few minutes later when his

pull-up jumper made it 58-28.

“Frank just put a good group of people together,” Pullen said.

“We’re playing well off of each other. Whoever’s hot, we’re

getting them the ball.”

Showing his athletic ability, the 6-foot Pullen reached in to

steal the ball in front of the scorer’s table at one point, lost

his balance and jumped flat-footed onto the table, then back onto

the court.

Kansas State had all reserves on the court with about 2 1/2

minutes left. But after two straight turnovers, Martin ordered his

starters back out.

Cleveland State’s aggressive defense forced 19 turnovers and

each team had nine steals.

“They are playing very good at home and they have not lost at

home this year,” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said. “They

are a very good team.”