Pullen scouted well by Coach K
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski already had the book started on how to defend Kansas State senior point guard Jacob Pullen.
For almost everyone else on the Wildcats, it was a 24-hour preparation after the Monday night win over Marquette in Kansas City�s CBE Classic.� At the conclusion of the Blue Devils 82-68 win over the Wildcats the next night, it was clear the Blue Devils strategy on dismantling K-State started with stifling Pullen.� He finished with only four points on 1-for-12 shooting and had only one assist while turning it over four times.
While Krzyzewski prepared the USA team last summer for the world championships in Turkey (which the USA won for the first time in 16 years), he had a first-hand look at Pullen as part of the USA Select team that worked out against the world team that included Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the MVP of the championships.� Pullen competed against Durant as a freshman when Durant played his only collegiate season at the University of Texas.
Before playing K-State, Krzyzewski said this about Pullen: �He knows who he is.� He has an established ego as an outstanding player.� Good leader.� He can really shoot the ball.� Just a tough kid.� I really like him.� We�re almost from near the same neighborhoods in Chicago.�
To stop Pullen, Krzyzewski relied on freshman Kyrie Irving, the first guard to start as a freshman at Duke since Jason Williams in 1999.� Not only did Irving put the clamps on Pullen, the West Orange, N.J., native shared game-high scoring honors with senior Nolan Smith, each with 17.
�When we were going through our walk-through, we had to really lock in on him,� said Irving, whom Frank Martin tried to lure to K-State.� �We had an awareness on him the whole entire game.� We did a great job on the defensive end, which gave us offensive momentum.�
Martin put some of the blame on himself for not preparing his team better after the Wildcats victory the night before against Gonzaga, the second ranked team the Cats beat in less than a week.� But he also knew from Irving�s days at St. Patrick�s High School in New Jersey what kind of player the Blue Devils were getting this season.
�Kyrie�s a special, special player,� said Martin.� �Mike (Krzyzewski) did a lot better job preparing his team in guarding Jacob than I did in our team in guarding Kyrie.�
Not since Pullen�s sophomore season has he finished in single-digit scoring.� In K-State�s season finale against the San Diego State in the 2009 NIT, Pullen went 0-for-4 and scored three points.� Martin also cited Pullen�s game at Oregon (2-for-13 and no treys in seven attempted) that season as one of his worst.� But Pullen bounced back to score 17 in the next game against Southern Mississippi at Sprint Center.
Senior forward Curtis Kelly, who made his season debut Monday night against the Zags, sat out the 2008-09 season after his transfer from the University of Connecticut.� From his observations of that season, Kelly learned about Pullen�s ability to bounce back from nights like the one against the Ducks in Oregon.
�If you know Jake, you know it�s not going to stay on him that long,� said Kelly, who led the Wildcats with 19 points off the bench.� �Jake�s probably got this already in the past.� He�s a good player and we�re all human.� Good players have tough nights.�
Until the CBE final against the Blue Devils, Pullen averaged 16.5 points a game.� It was apparent to coaches like Mark Few of the Zags that Pullen could shoot and handle the point.� Perhaps last summer with Coach K did have a positive effect.
�I think a lot of the kids who played this summer are having really good years.� They�re starting off with an even better mindset than what they�d normally have,� said Krzyzewski.
Except for when the summer coach rounds up a game plan to beat you.