TUCSON, Ariz. -- Kansas State wouldn't have made the NCAA tournament without point guard Jacob Pullen elevating his game late in the season. So you can understand that an ill Pullen was not a good thing heading into a showdown with Utah State, a nationally ranked, veteran team with 30 wins that was curiously seeded at No. 12.
But Pullen, the Wildcats first two-time All-Big 12 first-team selection, wasn't going to let a little fever end the Wildcats' season. He sat out Wednesday's shoot-around, and then he ended up making the Aggies sick with a game-high 22 points and five assists in a 73-68 victory.
"When it comes to basketball, you know, I put the way I feel aside." he said.
And so the Wildcats, counted out as one of the nation's biggest busts just a few weeks ago, survived and will play Wisconsin on Saturday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.
Scary thing is, Pullen, who averaged 27 points per game over the final six regular-season games, wasn't at his best, particularly on defense.
"He just didn't have that gear today," coach Frank Martin said. "[Utah State point guard] Brockeith Pane is fast and strong. [Pullen] just didn't have that gear to keep up with him and our guys didn't do a good job helping him. You can't have that."
Martin was unhappy with the Wildcats in the second half, when they repeatedly allowed the Aggies to make threatening runs at their double-digit leads.
"After our season, and all our growth and all that, it was little disappointing that we reverted in the second half to mistakes that we made early in the year," Martin said. "But this time of year you win, you get a chance to play again. "
Pullen led a Wildcats resurgence at the free throw line. A team that hit just over 64 percent from the stripe this season, connected on 24-of-28 (85.7 percent) and Pullen was 9-of-12. They made eight more free throws than the Aggies, and that played a major role in a game in which the overall numbers were fairly even.
Utah State coach Stew Morrill wasn't buying that Pullen wasn't at his best.
"I didn't think he was affected," Morrill said. "He is a really special guard. Holy smokes. I mean, when you do things that you often do to a good player -- when you double him, when you are helping -- he is coming off screens, he immediately senses that. He's got a great feel for the game, makes plays for his teammates. He's just special."
Pullen's matchup with Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor will be a highlight of Saturday's game. "[He's] one of the best guards in the country, I think," Pullen said.
One on a list that includes Pullen.