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Pullen, K-State open NCAAs with win over Aggies

Mar 18, 2011 - 5:56 AM Tucson, AZ (Sports Network) - Jacob Pullen finished with 22 points and five assists as Kansas State held off Utah State, 73-68, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Curtis Kelly added 15 points and six boards for the fifth-seeded Wildcats (23-10), while both Shane Southwell and Rodney McGruder donated 10 points in the win. K-State will next face Wisconsin in the round of 32.

"It's about winning games and continuing to be able to have a season right now," Pullen said. "And for us it was really just trying to find who was hot at what moment."

The Wildcats were an at-large bid in this year's tournament after losing to Colorado in the Big 12 quarterfinals. This is their 25th appearance in the NCAAs and they advanced to last year's Elite Eight before falling to eventual runner-up Butler.

Tai Wesley paced the 12th-seeded Aggies (30-4) with 18 points. Pooh Williams added 16 points, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, and Brockeith Pane scored 17 in the loss.

Utah State made its third consecutive appearance in the tournament after winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament. The Aggies fell to Texas A&M is last year's opening round.

K-State took a 33-22 lead into halftime, but the Aggies quickly cut the deficit, scoring the first six points of the second half. The Aggies' momentum was short-lived, though, as six straight Wildcats points -- four from Pullen-- put K-State's lead at 39-28 with 15:25 remaining.

The Wildcats kept their distance the rest of the way. Utah State got within 66-71 with a Pane layup and free throw in the final seconds.

Pane connected on the layup and conversion with 14 ticks remaining. But forced to foul, the Aggies sent Pullen to the line, where he made both, and all they could manage was a Brian Green jumper to account for the final margin.

The first half remained close until K-State used a 16-4 run around the mid- point of the quarter to create some distance. Pullen started the run with a layup and three-point conversion with 9:03 remaining. After he made a three- pointer, Southwell ended the spurt with a pair from the line with just under three minutes remaining in the half, giving the Wildcats a 31-17 lead.

"We had just a really tough stretch against K-State in the first half where we just didn't function very well," Aggies coach Stew Morrill said. "They took us out of everything we were trying to do with the pressure and their athleticism."

Southwell added another pair in the final second, giving K-State a 33-22 lead at the break.

"We responded well in the first half," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "I was extremely pleased at halftime. I thought we guarded. I thought we were strong."

Game Notes

Kansas State holds a all-time record of 5-0 over the Aggies with this being the first tournament meeting...Utah State has an 6-28 record in the NCAAs...Kansas State made 24-of-28 from the line, while Utah State was 16- of-21.