Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) – Jacob Pullen scored 26 points, and ninth- ranked Kansas State gained a spot in the Big 12 championship game with an 82-75 victory over No. 21 Baylor.
Denis Clemente added 24 points and dished out seven assists for the Wildcats (26-6), who set a school record for victories in a season. Next up for K-State is a game against No. 1 Kansas, which posted a 79-66 victory over 23rd-ranked Texas A&M in the other semifinal.
“They’ve earned the right to play for the championship,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “Now, we’ve got to go deal with the best team in the country who we’ve been nose to nose twice before. So it’s a great opportunity. KU is great.”
Dominique Sutton logged 14 points, 14 rebounds and four steals for the Wildcats, who are trying to win the conference tourney for the first time. They’ve already lost twice to the Jayhawks this season, including a rough 81-79 defeat in Manhattan on January 30. Now they’ll face a team that’s won the Big 12 tournament six times.
“We wanted to win the regular season Big 12, and we felt like we lost it at Kansas,” Pullen said. “We just want a chance to get a ring. Denis never got a ring, I never got a ring, I don’t think Frank got one. I want to get one while we’re here. That’s our goal right now. We have the opportunity in front of us. That’s our opportunity tomorrow.”
LaceDarius Dunn scored 26 for the Bears (25-7), who will wait for Sunday to see where they’ll be placed in the NCAA Tournament. Ekpe Udoh added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Baylor, which had a five-game winning streak broken. Josh Lomers scored 12 in defeat.
“I think we just stopped executing well,” Dunn said. “They really took us out of playing our game doing the things we do well. So hats off to Kansas State.”
Clemente drained a three-pointer for a 71-67 lead with 4:10 left, but Udoh responded with a dunk. After Quincy Acy blocked a jumper from Jamar Samuels, Baylor failed on a few attempts to tie the game.
Tweety Carter missed a pair of foul shots with 3:05 left, but Curtis Kelly gave the ball right back to the Bears on a turnover. Carter turned the ball over on the ensuing possession on a Sutton steal, but K-State couldn’t widen the margin initially.
Kelly misfired on a jumper, but Sutton came up with a huge offensive rebound. That led to a Pullen three-pointer with 2:02 left and a 74-69 lead. Pullen added a pair of free throws for a seven-point edge, and it was at least a two- possession game the rest of the way.
Baylor led by as many as nine in the first half, at 23-14 on a layup from A.J. Walton with under 11 minutes left. K-State came back with an 11-1 spurt to go in front, but the Wildcats trailed, 37-36, at the break. The Wildcats led by eight in the early stages of the second half.
Carter accounted for six of his team’s 18 turnovers…Baylor shot 54 percent from the field, compared to 45.9 percent for the Wildcats…K-State beat Baylor, 76-74, on January 26…Pullen made half of his 10 three-point shots.