Kansas State Falls In The Desert
With 17:40 left in the game, Pullen was on the move in transition, split the line, curled the ball with his right hand back to his hip, and then gently kissed the leather ball off the glass for his 22nd point of the game, and 2,116th point of his K-State lifetime …. one more than Mike Evans.
It was a highlight play for the ages … a play fitting only for Pullen. But to the Wildcat from Chicago, Ill., it didn't matter.
Choking back tears at the postgame NCAA press conference, he said, "It's tough. I want to win. I just wanted to win the game. I don't care about a scoring record or anything else. I wanted to get to the Final Four and I didn't get a chance to do that."
Later Pullen said, "All the individual accolades and stuff I care nothing about. I'll pass up on all of them. I'll be 100th in scoring if that would have got me to the Final Four. I wanted a ring."
On the heroics of his 6-foot guard, coach Frank Martin talked of Pullen's loyalty when he was hired as coach and staying with his verbal commitment four years ago.
"You can coach a long time and never come across another one like him. I'm lucky. He's first class," said Martin. "He is the scoring leader in the history of K-State. He's been to four postseasons (1 NIT, 3 NCAA). It's all because of him."
Pullen's 38 points set a KSU single-game NCAA record bettering Chuckie Williams' 35 against Syracuse in 1975, plus he moved passed KU's Nick Collison into the No. 4 position in the history of the Big 12 Conference.
It also tied his career-high set against Kansas earlier this season.
"That's one of the best performances I have ever seen," said freshman Will Spradling. "He didn't want to lose. You could see it." Jordan Henriquez-Roberts added, "He gave it his all."
And Rodney McGruder said, "He played every aspect on the offensive and defensive ends. He played to win."
Pullen opened the game with two buckets and two assists for K-State's first four buckets. Pullen opened the second half with a 3-ball and the record-setting bucket at the 17:40 mark, plus added another trey as K-State went on a 10-zip tear, erasing a 36-30 halftime deficit and taking a 40-36 lead.
Pullen's night wasn't perfect as in one-possession situations, he lost control the ball on a dribble-drive, plus missed a free throw with 10 seconds left in the game, and then had a 3-point attempt blocked in the final ticks of the game.
On the late two plays, Pullen said, "I wanted to get the ball into the open court. I made a move, but it's a physical game, and the referees decided not to call anything, so we had to play through it.
"The last shot just didn't get a good tip," said Pullen. "He played good ‘D' and got a piece of the ball."
When it was over, Pullen had made 13-of-22 field goals, 6-of-8 from 3-point range and 6-of-8 from the foul line. He had two rebounds, two assists, three turnovers and four fouls in 32 minutes of work.
When the buzzer sounded at 8:24 Mountain Time ending the career of No. 0, he knelt to the floor covering his face with his purple jersey. He draped a Gatorade towel over his head as he headed down the line shaking hands with the Wisconsin players, before turning right and trotting to the Wildcat dressing room for the final time.
PULLEN'S HISTORICAL UPDATE:
Career Points – 2,132, 1st in KSU history passing Mike Evans' 2,115 points
Career Games – 135, 1ST in KSU history
Career wins – 95, 1st in KSU history with Chris Merriewether and Luis Colon
Career 3-Pointers – 301, 1st in KSU history
Career Twin Figure Games – 105, 1st in KSU history
Career Steals – 210, 1st in KSU history
Career 20-Point Games – 42, 2nd in KSU history to Bob Boozer's 45
Career Assists – 455, 2nd in KSU history to Steve Henson's 582
Career Free Throws – 527, 2nd in KSU history to Bob Boozer's 529
Career Minutes – 3,978, 2nd in KSU history to Henson's 4,474
Career Field Goals – 653, 3rd in KSU history to Evans (890) and Rolando Blackman (755)
Career Starts – 116, 3rd in KSU history to Ed Nealy (118), Henson (118) and Blackman (116)
Career Big 12 Scorer – 2,132, 4th in Big 12 history behind Lacedarius Dunn, Andre Emmett and Jarrius Jackson