Kansas State beat Oklahoma 77-62 on Saturday to move to .500 in Big 12 play. The win came after knocking in-state rival Kansas from its perch atop the college basketball rankings on Feb. 14. The Wildcats have finally started playing like the team many expected to see before the season started, thanks to the improved play of senior point guard Jacob Pullen.
Pullen started the week off scoring a season-high 38 points against Kansas. He followed with a 27-point effort against the Sooners to put the Wildcats back in the hunt for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament. Pullen was the aggressor in both games, going to the free throw line 27 times, and found his stroke from distance, going eight-for-12 from
beyond the arch.
Kansas State will need Pullen to keep stepping up in big games as the toughest part of its schedule begins Wednesday when the team travels to Nebraska. The road doesn’t get any easier after that: No. 21 Missouri will visit the Wildcats in Manhattan on Saturday before the Wildcats’ pivotal matchup against No. 5 Texas on Monday in Austin.
<strong>Dunn closing in on milestone</strong>
Baylor senior shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn needs 40 points to become the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer. Dunn is the first player in Bears history to surpass 2,200 points (2,217) and has his sights set on former Red Raider Andre Emmett’s scoring mark. Emmett became the conference’s top scorer in 2004 after four years in Lubbock. Playing four years in the league certainly has its benefits and, unlike Dunn, few great scorers stay on campus for all four seasons.
“If [former Longhorn Kevin] Durant had stayed four years, there’d be a chance he could be the all-time leading scorer,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “But I don’t think that should discount the career that LaceDarius has. Guys that stay deserve to get rewarded.”
Dunn has caused numerous headaches for opposing coaches, which Self attributed to Dunn’s unorthodox style and ability to make mid-range jump shots and three-pointers.
“He may be the only guy I have coached against who can do that, he keeps you off balance and doesn’t need much space,” Self said. “At times he looks like he’s in slow motion but that’s part of his game plan.”
Dunn and the Bears face Missouri on the road Wednesday then return home Saturday for a matchup with Texas A&M, leaving the door open for the scoring record to be broken in front of the Baylor faithful.
<strong>Top teams take tumble</strong>
The previously top-ranked Jayhawks were not the only top-10 team from the Big 12 to lose on the road last week after Nebraska upset second-ranked Texas on Saturday. The fact that the conference’s two best teams stumbled didn’t surprise KU’s coaching staff.
“I think the home court [advantage] is worth ‘x’ amount of points, depending on who it is and the situation,” Self said. “The later you play in your season, with the way the conference schedules are usually set up, the tougher the games become.”
The Cornhuskers moved to 16-1 at home with their win over Texas, and Self said the Longhorns’ 70-67 loss was not a bad one. Self didn’t say the same for his team’s defeat to rival Kansas State — a 16-point loss on national television.
The road losses didn’t cost either program much in the rankings, with both teams staying in the top five in both polls.