February 9, 2008

Wildcats power to win over O-State

The Kansas State Wildcats run toward the Big 12 regular-season title continued Saturday as the Wildcats arrived the conference's midway point with just one loss after an 82-61 victory over Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum improved the Wildcats' conference record to 7-1. Led by another double-double from NCAA Player of the Year candidate Michael Beasley, K-State appeared to be every bit as good as its standing would indicate, taking the next step in its quest to capture a Big 12 Championship.

"I think we can do it," said Beasley, who set K-State's single-season record for double-doubles with his 19th Saturday. "I think we can be the champions. "We can win (the Big 12 Tournament) and the next one -- the big one. We just have to keep playing like we're playing."

But it wasn't just Beasley lighting up the scoreboard for the Wildcats on Saturday, as 17 points from freshman point guard Jacob Pullen did wonders in fueling K-State's decisive victory. Saturday marked the fourth time Pullen has scored in double figures in eight conference games, hinting that the sometimes erratic 18-year old may finally be coming into his own.

"That's my battle with Jacob," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "He can play like that a lot more than he does right now. He can't give you two great minutes and two awful minutes. That's where his growth has to come."

K-State became the first team to crack the 80-point barrier against the Cowboys since a Dec. 15 loss to Pitt, and the first in nearly a month to break 70, but it wasn't just the K-State offense that made a statement. K-State forced 24 turnovers in the victory, while out-rebounding the Cowboys 51-29. The Wildcats also racked up 21 second-chance points in the win, and held Oklahoma State to a measly five offensive boards.

"They had 29 rebounds, and we had 29 offensive rebounds," Martin said following Saturday's game. "That's a group of guys responding to the intensity of that basketball game."

After showing a tendency toward second-half shakiness over the course of its last two games, K-State was as stable as ever in the second 20 minutes of Saturday's contest. The Wildcats scored the first eight points of the final period, and with nine minutes left to play, Martin's team already led by 16.

Just eight of Beasley's game-high 23 points came in the contest's second period, but those, along with his 13 total rebounds, helped bury the Cowboys early in the game's final half, making his team's recent late-game struggles seem like ancient history.

K-State opened Saturday's game the same way they closed it, as four early 3-pointers by Pullen helped the Wildcats jump out to a 10-point lead just more than six minutes into the contest. The K-State defense looked just as polished as the offense in the early going, forcing Oklahoma State to commit 14 first-half turnovers, setting the pace by frustrating the Cowboys in nearly every facet of the game.

A 9-3 run capped by a Blake Young layup stretched the K-State lead to 15 late in the opening period, before a nearly six-minute field goal drought allowed the Cowboys to pull back to within five before the halftime buzzer, sending the Wildcats into the locker room clinging to a 38-33 lead.

"We had a 15 point lead and it went to five by halftime," Beasley said. "Coach jumped on us. He told us that we have to stop playing like (boys) when we get a big lead."

K-State freshman Bill Walker poured in 14 points in Saturday's victory, while guards Young and Fred Brown helped the Wildcats' cause by chipping in eight each. Junior Terrel Harris, who scored a team-best 16 points in the loss, led Oklahoma State's offensive effort, while freshman James Anderson managed 14 on 4 for 9 shooting.

K-State will return to action Wednesday, when they travel to the Lone Star State for a road meeting with 12-10 Texas Tech.

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