LUBBOCK, Texas — Jacob Pullen caught the ball inches behind the three-point line on the right wing, calmly sent it high into the air and watched as it swished through the net.
It was the junior guard's first shot of the game, and seemed unspectacular compared to the glut of extraordinary baskets he made on a night when he led all scorers with 28 points. But there was no doubting the significance of his start in No. 6 Kansas State's 83-64 victory over Texas Tech at United Spirit Arena on Tuesday night.
The jumper came immediately after Texas Tech took its only lead, and allowed K-State to control things the rest of the way.
It also gave Pullen the springboard he needed to score a season-high 21 first-half points.
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"I just went with it," Pullen said. "As the half kept going, I got more aggressive."
K-State coach Frank Martin didn't need to see Pullen swish a three-pointer to know he was going to lead the Wildcats (23-4, 10-3 Big 12) to a sixth straight victory.
He knew Pullen was going to do that less than an hour after waking up Tuesday.
"There was something about his body language, about the message that he kept repeating to the team in the locker room and on the bus," Martin said. "I've been around him enough where I'm starting to have reads on him, and I had the feel that he was really, really zoned in today."
All season, Pullen or Denis Clemente has carried that swagger. Recently it has been Clemente, who scored 27 points in the Wildcats' last game at Oklahoma and 30 against Iowa State three games earlier.
On other nights, it has been Pullen who has scored 20 or more points in 11 games.
"We were trying to stay on him (Pullen) and make it hard on him, then you turn around and he has 21 at half," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "That kid is an all-conference, first-team guard, and then you have Clemente who is the same thing. You can't ask for a better guard combo than that."
In the second half, Knight challenged his players to better defend Pullen. He had seven points, but it opened the door for everyone else to get open shots.
Jamar Samuels had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Clemente scored 14 points and five assists, and junior forward Curtis Kelly got 12 points and eight rebounds.
That spread attack helped K-State immediately push Texas Tech back when it cut the Wildcats' 39-29 halftime lead to 43-37 less than four minutes into the second half.
Before you knew it, Kelly, Pullen, Dominique Sutton and Clemente had all scored to get K-State's lead back out to 57-42. It went on to lead by as many as 22 points.
"When you're playing with a good team like I'm playing with this year," Pullen said, "we're just doing a good job of keeping the balance. Teams have to stay honest. You can't really double anybody. We've got post players scoring the ball, Denis shooting the ball in, Dom is playing more aggressive offensively. I think we've just got the full package offensively."
The Wildcats' recent results — six straight wins, six straight road wins — back that up.
Since February began, K-State has been favored in six straight games and won all six. None of its opponents have owned a winning conference record, and none of the victories have been worth bragging about. But that's why its players no longer enthusiastically celebrate wins like they have in past seasons.
Samuels used few words to sum up the night.
"It was a silent game," Samuels said. "We just played well."
Pullen felt like elaborating.
"We've gotta make sure we stay up front," Pullen said. "So we handle stuff as a business, like a corporation."