Anyone who wanted to know what Kansas State looked like without Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly got their wish yesterday.
Turns out the Wildcats can hold their own without their two most heralded players.
With Pullen in foul trouble and on the bench for all but two minutes of the first half, and Kelly serving an ongoing suspension, K-State used an assortment of different players against the 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. They all did their part. The Wildcats found a way to take a one-point halftime lead and pull away for a 73-57 victory once Pullen returned to the game.
Here’s a look at who contributed most under the unusual circumstances:
Will Spradling — The freshman came on to lead the offense without Pullen in the game, and did an admirable job. Spradling scored five points, played tough defense and committed zero turnovers. Impressive for being his first big-time college game. Afterward K-State coach Frank martin compared him to Pullen as a freshman.
Jamar Samuels — He provided a great deal of energy off the bench and shook off nine missed shots to score 13 points and grab eight rebounds. He also led the team with five assists. “I felt like I got back in the groove,” is what he said afterward.
Martavious Irving — Drained three three-pointers during a pivotal 28-9 run in the second half that clinched the game. Also provided strong defense.
Rodney McGruder — Scored 13 points and came in off the perimeter to grab nine rebounds. What a fighter.
Jordan Henriquez-Roberts — After two games, he’s the most consistent big man on K-State’s roster. Against Virginia Tech he scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
And, of course, Pullen played a fabulous second half despite being hindered with three fouls. He had his teammates to thank for that.
“I had to get out of the way a few times, but Jordan was behind me blocking shots and Jamar was behind me getting rebounds,” Pullen said. “Rodney, Martavious, Nick, Will they all played big minutes today.”
Martin was happy to see those results.
“It’s about playing as a team and winning as a team,” Martin said. “… If you would have told me that our two feature players, for lack of a better word because other people think they’re our feature players, one of them isn’t going to play and the other one was going to play two minutes in the first half and we’d hold court at halftime I would have said, ‘I’ll take it. Let’s go do it.’
“That’s a credit to our assistants … That’s a credit to our players. You didn’t see Jacob and Curtis sitting on the bench pouting and moaning because Curtis is mad at me or Jacob is into his own situation because he’s on ESPN and they call two fouls on him right away. No, you saw those guys coaching their tails off on the sideline. Those are two good teammates.”
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
– When will Kelly return to the floor? It sounds like he will be back in action sooner rather than later, but Martin still says there is no set date.
“He’s doing a lot better,” Martin said. “That punishment is not games. That punishment is for him to change that behavior, and he’s done that. And as he continues to do that I’ll feel more comfortable …
“Curtis is a great kid. I believe in Curtis until the end of the day. He’s going to be a very good player for us this year. It’s a player/coach kinda deal. It’s my job to handle it.”
– What’s it like to have Martin displeased with you for an extended period of time? According to Samuels, it isn’t pleasant.
“I would say it’s like being an abandoned child or an abandoned puppy,” Samuels said. “You’re just roaming the streets with no one to talk to.”
– K-State’s free-throw shooting (14 of 28) may still need some work, but the Wildcats’ defense is already playing at a high level. It forced Virginia Tech’s veteran lineup into 17 turnovers.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jamar Samuels. He was the first to spark K-State’s offense when Pullen had to come out.
PLAY OF THE GAME: When Samuels threw down an alley-oop dunk with close to four minutes remaining in the game, Bramlage Coliseum was at its loudest.
THAT WAS SWEET: Malcolm Delaney is one of the best and experienced guards K-State will see all season. The Wildcats forced him into committing nine turnovers.
WHAT A DOWNER: When K-State gets within two feet of the rim, it needs to take advantage. Samuels, McGruder, Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla missed too many shots from close range.
NEXT UP: The Wildcats have one more tuneup against Presbyterian before they head to Kansas City to take on Gonzaga in the CBE Classic.