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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Pullen's brilliance not enough vs. Badgers

By Ted Miller



TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jacob Pullen became Kansas State's all-time leading scorer Saturday and tied his career-high with 38 points. But hearing about it made him cry.

It's not difficult to understand why. The cornerstone of the Wildcats' surge into national relevancy saw his collegiate career ended 70-65 by Wisconsin in the round of 32 on Saturday night.

"I wanted them to remember me as a person that led the team to a Final Four, Elite Eight, and the outcome of this game didn't allow that to happen," Pullen said. "All individual accolades are stuff I care nothing about. I'll pass up on all of them. I'll be 100th in the scoring thing if that would have got me to the Final Four. You know, that is all I wanted. I wanted a ring."

Pullen dominated his marquee matchup with Badgers all-Big Ten point guard Jordan Taylor, who was 2-of-16 from the field.

"He was the best player on the floor tonight," Taylor said. "But we're moving on and going to New Orleans. So that's all that matters."

Wisconsin will face Butler, which upset top-seeded Pittsburgh in Washington, D.C.

And while Taylor lost the battle in the most obvious ways, he also kept his cool and played a critical role down the stretch, particularly when he blocked Pullen's 3-point attempt that could have tied the game at 68. Taylor was 6-for-6 from the free throw line -- he finished with 12 points -- and added six assists with no turnovers. Pullen had three turnovers and two assists.

"His 6-to-0 assist-turnover ratio says he stayed focused," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He was having a rough night scoring, but he is a taskmaster of his own skills and his own abilities that he's not going to throw the rest of it away simply because things have gotten away from him. Because he is that dedicated to being the leader on this team on the floor. He never wavered from that the whole time."

Pullen didn't get as much help as Taylor did. Four Badgers reached double figures, led by Jon Leuer with 19 points and seven rebounds, and another had eight points. Curtis Kelly, with 11 points, was the only other Wildcat who reached double-figures. The Badgers bench outscored Kansas State's 15-5.

"We got nothing from our bench today," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "We got breakdowns from our bench. That's what we got."

Pullen simply couldn't do it all. He missed the second of three free throws that could have tied the game with 10 seconds remaining. And, with 22 seconds left and Kansas State down by one, he fell and turned the ball over as he drove for the basket.

"I made a move and I thought he had my hand," Pullen said of the play, the loose ball ending up with Mike Bruesewitz. "I went to at least try to put the ball on the rim. But it was a physical game, and the referees decided not to call anything. So we had to play through it."

Bruesewitz is a fine example of the sort of help Pullen didn't get. He connected on a 3-pointer with 1:33 left that gave the Badgers a 64-61 lead, one they'd never surrender.

Taylor was gracious about his matchup with Pullen, repeatedly calling his adversary, "the best player on the floor." But Pullen's outstanding career is over. And for Taylor and the Badgers?

"Unbelievable feeling in the locker room celebrating with your teammates knowing you are one of 16 teams still playing," Leuer said. "At the same time we think we're far from over. We have a lot of work to do still and are looking forward to our next challenge."