‘CATS PEAKING AT PERFECT TIME

One step closer, Kansas State is, to the biggest "Dance" of all -- the Final Four. With victories in Oklahoma City over North Texas and BYU, the 28-7 Wildcats will now play Xavier in the West Regional in Salt Lake City on Thursday. The key in all sports is peaking at the right time, and Kansas State appears to be doing just that.

Peaking: Being at your very best at the most pivotal time of the season.
See Jacob Pullen.
See Denis Clemente.
See Wally Judge.

See Kansas State.

"I think we are playing our best basketball," said junior guard Jacob Pullen. "There's still that best game still out there, but we're doing some things right."

Things in this past weekend's first- and second-rounds of the NCAA Tournament like scoring – 82 and 84 points against North Texas and BYU; things like defending – allowing just 62 and 72 points in the two games; things like rebounding -- plus-four and plus-seven in the two games; and, things like making free throws – 80 percent for the two games.

It was coach Frank Martin, who said after Saturday's 84-72 victory over BYU, "These kids are unbelievable. The way they compete, the way they go out and believe in each other, and the way they have grown is amazing."

Martin went on to say the words were true for a freshman like Wally Judge, to the experienced Wildcat like Pullen, "… who has worked so hard to lead our basketball team and our program to new heights. I'm excited for them. I'm excited for K-Staters."

Pullen's game against BYU of 34 points, four steals, two assists, plus playing tenacious defense on one of the premier guards in America in Jimmer Fredette, was one of the most complete single-game efforts ever by a Wildcat player. True, in particular, on such a stage as the NCAA Tournament.

Pullen is among the elite total players in the collegiate game today. His game is one of toughness and skill, one of the 3-ball and being automatic at the line; one of such extreme passion for his own individual game, yet leadership to make all those around him better. Statistically, he scored 49 points with seven steals, five assists and three turnovers in his 56 minutes of court time.

That's for the team today. But the Wildcat coaches will tell you he's also helping coach this team for the future.

"We don't have a player in our program who is better with the young kids in telling them what to do, and why it's important to do it," said assistant coach Brad Underwood. "His leadership skills are off the charts."

Simply put, Pullen is peaking. He's never played better.

Today, it's easy to forget how Clemente was mired in a shooting slump during the non-conference portion of the season, but still orchestrated the offense with better than a two-to-one assist to turnover ratio.

Now, the shots are falling, and now his decisions are better than ever.

In the last four games, the senior guard has averaged 18 points on 48 percent shooting and with 30 assists to only 10 turnovers while playing an average of 37 minutes per game. And, it was Clemente who blanketed North Texas' leading shooter Josh White and held the Mean Green scoring machine to 1-of-10 accuracy from the field and three points for the game.

It was current West Virginia coach, and former K-State coach, Bob Huggins who told OSR last week that it would be impossible for Pullen to be having the season he's having, without the season Clemente is having in running the team.

Simply put, Clemente is peaking. He's never played better.

And the same can be said for Judge.

The 6-foot-9 freshman played minutes numbering only seven, four, five and two in four games, plus did not play in another over the last five games in the month of February. In those games, Judge had a total of one point and three rebounds. That's a "total" of one point and three rebounds in five games.

In the seven games of March, he's played at least 10 minutes in five of the games, which included 18 minutes against North Texas (six points, six boards) and 20 against BYU (eight points, eight rebounds). Those two games were perhaps two of his best three games of the season, along with the 10-point, 9-rebound effort against Kansas in late January.

In his last three games, Judge has averaged 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, not to mention being an enforcer on the defensive end.

"We've coached him. We've forced him to grow, and to his credit, he's never fought it," said Martin. "He's embraced it, and has continued to work."

And today, simply put, Judge is peaking. He has never played better.

In "March Madness," one game can end a season – see Kansas – but Kansas State's collective effort, and play, in the last two weeks is what gets a team to the Final Four.

Only time will tell, but there's every reason to believe it can/will happen.


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