TUCSON, Ariz. -- Just like Wisconsin, Kansas State looked to some like a team ripe for the picking by a confident "mid-major" that arrived at the Southwest Regional with 30 wins. And just like Wisconsin answered the call against Belmont, so did the Wildcats against Utah State.
Fifth-seeded Kansas State dispatched Utah State 73-68 behind balanced scoring and really, really good free-throw shooting, which is a surprise because the Wildcats are a lousy free-throw shooting team.
Turning point: Kansas State led 56-43 with five minutes left, but Utah State went on a 7-0 run, which was punctuated by a driving slam dunk by Pooh Williams. Utah State then forced a K-State turnover. The Aggies fans were energized. But the Wildcats sprung a trap on point guard Brockeith Pane, who travelled on the ensuing possession. Jamar Samuels made a layup and the lead was eight again. And that, really, was the pattern of the game. Utah State makes a challenge; Kansas State answers.
Key player: Kansas State point guard Jacob Pullen was ill yesterday, but he was just sick against Utah State. The Wildcats leader scored 22 points and dished six assists.
Key stat: The Wildcats hit just 64.4 percent of their free throws this year. Yet they connected on 24-of-28 -- 85 percent -- against the Aggies.
Miscellaneous: Kansas State averages 15 turnovers a game but they had just nine against the Aggies... WAC player of the year Tai Wesley led Utah State with 18 points and six rebounds... Kansas State is now 11-4 in first-round games.
What's next: Kansas State will play fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday.