K-State quiets the doubters

Jacob Pullen couldn't shoot. Ditto Denis Clemente.

And Kansas State still made Texas' first stay at No. 1 a brief one.

If anyone doubts the legitimacy of Frank Martin's Wildcats, the 71-62 win over the Longhorns ought to put the questions to rest. The new-to-the-spotlight Wildcats were the ones who kept their composure in a frenetic, physical and frequently ugly game. They rode the emotion and the fervor of a home crowd -- fueled by a student section that made a 4 a.m. wakeup call to wait for tickets -- to a first-half lead, and survived when the Longhorns made their run at the start of the second.

Three years ago, K-State earned headlines thanks to megawatt star Michael Beasley. Now the Wildcats are turning heads thanks to coach Frank Martin (see my Dec. 16 feature on him here) and the play of their entire team.

In a game where buckets were harder to come by than a smile on Martin's face, KState's defense stood taller than UT's. The Longhorns sent wave after wave of players at Kansas State -- 13 of them in all -- and none of them could score. Freshman Avery Bradley was the only Longhorn to hit double figures and he had to squeak in with 11 points.

Certainly the Longhorns didn't help their own cause. Tearing a page from the Memphis free-throw handbook, Texas continued its season-long free throw woes by shooting 9-of-22 from the uncharitable stripe and played with a stunning lack of composure in the first half, their frontcourt all but disappearing and the backcourt coughing up the ball time and again.

But some of the Longhorns' problems certainly were due to the Wildcats' efforts. K-State may not have played much prettier than Texas -- they missed 12 free throws and connected on just 1-of-12 from the arc -- but they played harder. With Pullen (who will apparently have to continue to grow his Amish beard) and Clemente all but shut down -- they were a combined 4-of-24 -- Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly all all but embarrassed the presumed stronger frontcourt of Texas. Samuels and Kelly combined for 37 points and 20 boards to the 15 and 14 of Damion James and Dexter Pittman.

James, a legit national player of the year candidate, was all but negated entirely, shooting only 3-of-12 from the floor. Kelly and Samuels were so in his head, the senior missed easy chippies down the stretch that could have made it interesting.

The interesting twist in all of this: K-State will host Kansas on Jan. 30 (the trip to Lawrence doesn't come until March 3) and will not have to travel to Austin.

In other words, the Big 12 championship -- as my colleague Doug Gottlieb blogged about Monday morning -- is running through Manhattan this season.