Can Cowboys Stop Pullen, Wildcats?

The Oklahoma State Cowboys have seen preseason All-America guard Jacob Pullen of Kansas State at his best and his worst. But which version of Pullen will show up for the Big 12 Conference opener for both the Cowboys and the 17th-ranked Wildcats at noon Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena?

Oklahoma State is 12-2 while Kansas State is 12-3 entering the nationally televised conference opener (ESPN2).

Pullen, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, was a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in two games against the Cowboys a year ago. He made just 2 of 15 shots from the field, including 2 of 12 from three-point range, and finished with just 11 points as Oklahoma State upset the 10th-ranked Wildcats 73-69 in Manhattan, Kan., last January.

But it was a different story in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament in March as the Wildcat guard was 5-of-8 from behind the arc and scored 19 points to lead Kansas State to a resounding 83-64 victory over the Cowboys.

The 6-foot senior returned to the court Monday night after serving a three-game suspension and had the best shooting game of his college career – making 9 of 11 shots – to score 24 points in leading the Wildcats to a 92-61 victory over Savannah State.

"He's been there for a long time so missing a couple of games isn't going to affect him or their team very much at all," Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said of Pullen, who has struggled from behind the three-point line this season as he's shooting around 31 percent compared to 40 percent a year ago.

Ford says the Wildcats are more than just one player. Pullen returned to the court earlier this week but head coach Frank Martin will still be without Curtis Kelley, who is in the midst of a six-game suspension for accepting impermissible benefits from a local department store.

"They get after you defensively. They can score from the three-point line. They've got guys inside who can score, Obviously, they're just dominating rebounding-wise. They can hurt you in a lot of different areas. There's a reason they were picked in the preseason to win our league, and rightfully so. They're a very good basketball team," said Ford.

The Cowboys are led by the trio of Marshall Moses (17.1 points and 8.1 rebounds), Keiton Page (13.9 points) and Jean-Paul Olukemi (10.1 points in coming off the bench).

"We're glad we're 12-2 but out of all of those 14 games we're going to have to play better than any of those games in order to compete in the Big 12. We understand that," said Ford. "We have a pretty good feel for who we are. We've talked to our team a lot and they understand we're going to have to play better than we've played thus far, especially to compete on Saturday and continue on through the league."

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