NCAA hoops: Pullen rallies Kansas State past BYU, Fredette
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY — BYU's Jimmer Fredette got smacked in the face, whacked on the head and then sent home from the NCAA tournament.
Jacob Pullen and Kansas State are moving on, thanks to a physical brand of basketball that was too much for even Fredette's prison-toughened game.
Pullen scored 20 of his career-high 34 points in the first half to help dig No. 2 seed Kansas State out of an early 10-point hole, and the Wildcats turned away Fredette and BYU 84-72 on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Pullen came alive with a scoring flurry shortly after he and Fredette got tangled up in transition in the first half, and K-State (28-7) wouldn't trail again in earning its first round of 16 appearance since 1988.
Pullen matched his career-best with seven 3-pointers and surpassed 30 points for the third time in his career. Down the stretch, he helped seal the victory with a 3-pointer and six free throws. Equally as important as his scoring was his physical defense against Fredette, who had scored 37 points to get the seventh-seeded Cougars (30-6) past Florida in double overtime in the first round.
Kansas State did something it couldn't even do with future No. 2 NBA draft pick Michael Beasley on the roster two years ago, moving on to face the winner of a Sunday game between No. 3 seed Pittsburgh and sixth-seeded Xavier next weekend in Salt Lake City.
Fredette finished with 21 points on 4-of-13 shooting, breaking his string of three straight games with at least 30 points.
Fredette put his stamp on March Madness with a combination of tricky scoop shots and clutch 3-pointers as he matched BYU's NCAA tournament scoring record in the opening game. It only added more intrigue that he had a unique nickname — created by his mother to distinguish him from her brother, who's also named James — and his experience toughening up in pickup games against inmates at upstate New York prisons.
But then he ran into Pullen — literally.
The two got tangled up after Pullen knocked the ball away from Fredette with just under 7 minutes left in the first half and Pullen remained on the court for a few moments grasping his left hip. He stayed in the game and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave K-State its first lead with 4:21 left before halftime, completing a rally out of an early 10-0 hole.
Pullen then scored the Wildcats' last 11 points of the first half, including the final eight points in their own 10-0 spurt — five on free throws and then a 3-pointer that made it 38-29. The Wildcats wouldn't trail again.
Fredette took shots to his face and head at least three times in the game, including a midcourt run-in with Denis Clemente that left him grabbing at his nose to check for blood. He also got smacked in the face in transition after a K-State steal in the first half and had his head dinged under the basket just after halftime.
BYU couldn't take advantage after Pullen was whistled for his fourth foul for being all over Fredette and had to take a seat with 6:20 left. The Cougars scored the next five points to get within 66-59 but then Pullen came back in to provide the finishing touches.
His 3-pointer with 3:22 remaining put Kansas State back up by 10 and he didn't leave any doubt by making all of his free throws down the stretch.
Pullen flashed a huge grin as he bounced the ball to an official then headed to the bench for the last time in the final minute. He waved to a crowd of purple-clad fans behind the Wildcats' bench, then pointed to the sky after he'd slapped high-fives with his teammates.