Pullen, No. 5 'Cats handle Red Raiders
Jacob Pullen sees his Kansas State team operating on the road like
It seems the approach is working as the No. 5 Wildcats have lost just one of seven conference games away from home.
"For us, we have to handle this as business," Pullen said after scoring 21 of his 28 points in the first half to lead Kansas State to an 83-64 victory over Texas Tech on Tuesday night. "If you're McDonald's or Wendy's, you don't want Wendy's selling more than McDonald's if you're McDonald's. And so we have to make sure that we stay in front. So we handle stuff as a business, as a corporation for all our road trips."
Kansas State (23-4, 10-3) won its sixth straight overall to remain alive for a possible tie for the Big 12 championship with No. 1 Kansas.
Wildcats coach Frank Martin said Pullen was psyched up before the game.
"There was something about his body language and about the message he kept repeating to the team in the locker room and on the bus," Martin said. "I've been around him enough to where I'm starting to have reads on him. And I had the feel that he was really, really zoned in today."
Martin is pleased with his team overall.
"As a team, we've moved forward, which is huge because you don't want to be in neutral," he said. "They're a fun group of guys. They come in, they listen, they work. They make it easy for us to coach because they care. When you're around people that care, it makes your job a lot easier."
John Roberson scored 15 points for Texas Tech (16-11, 4-9), which lost its fourth straight, three of them to Top 25 teams in the past week.
Kansas State trailed only at the game's outset and held off brief spurts by Texas Tech late in the first half.
The Red Raiders pulled within 43-37 on two free throws by Darko Cohadarevic early in the second half but never threatened after that.
Jamar Samuels had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Kansas State, while Denis Clemente added 14 points, ending a run that had seen him score at least 21 points in four of the last five games.
Kansas State, which won in Lubbock for the first time since 1986, could still share the Big 12 title with the Jayhawks. Kansas would have to lose its three remaining games and the Wildcats would have to win their final three. They play March 3 at Kansas.
Texas Tech played Kansas State differently than other teams this season, Martin said.
"And our guys took a while to comprehend what was there and what wasn't there, and we stayed the course," he said. "As the game evolved, we started to understand the things we can get and not get."
Texas Tech shot poorly throughout, hitting on just 37.5 percent of their 56 field goal attempts. The Wildcats hit on 47.5 percent of their 59 attempts.
Pullen finished 9-of-14 from the field and had three 3-pointers. He had five assists and three steals.
"That kid is an all-conference, first-team guard," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "He's good. He can score."
Roberson and Nick Okorie both got their fourth foul with more than 11 minutes remaining and the Wildcats took advantage. Kansas State went up 57-42 with just over 10 minutes remaining after scoring on five straight possessions, which included making 6 of 7 free throws.
The Wildcats missed only six of 26 free throws attempts and finished 7-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Cohadarevic's putback pulled Texas Tech within 67-58 with 6 minutes remaining but Clemente answered with two 3s in the next minute to put the Wildcats up 75-59 with 4:06 remaining.
Before 5 minutes had elapsed Clemente had 10 of Kansas State's 14 points. He finished the half with 21 points.
The Wildcats went up 21-12 before the Red Raiders went on a 9-2 run, including a field goal and two free throws by Okorie, to pull within 27-25. But Kansas State kicked up the pace and closed the half on a 12-4 run to lead 39-29.
Roberson and Mike Singletary, the Red Raiders' top two scorers, went a combined 1 of 8 from the field in the first half.
Knight said his team needs to rebound before playing at Nebraska on Saturday. The goal now is to play in the NIT.
"I have to be careful," he said. "These kids' confidence is fragile. I worry about that."