MOBILE, Ala. —It was another explosive performance for Jacob Pullen, a breakout game for Wally Judge and a statement victory for the Kansas State basketball team.
Playing with a ranking next to their name for the first time this season, the No. 17 Wildcats defeated Alabama 87-74 on Saturday at the Mitchell Center.
It was an impressive effort for Kansas State, now 10-1 and not planning on leaving the Top 25 anytime soon.
"We wanted to solidify ourselves," said Pullen, who scored a season high 30 points. "We didn't want people to think that UNLV was a fluke or that we were just a rowdy, non-consistent team."
K-State led by double digits throughout much of the contest, and every time Alabama threatened to get back in the game Pullen was ready to make another shot.
Pullen, who has scored 20 or more points in six of his last seven games, was hot the whole night. He scored 20 in the first half, and matched Alabama's point total when K-State took a 40-20 lead.
He did most of his damage from the outside, draining six three-pointers.
It's what coach Frank Martin has come to expect from the junior guard.
"He's playing at a high level," Martin said. "He's earned it. He's worked extremely hard at learning how to be a good player every single day."
What Martin isn't accustomed to is Judge flirting with a double-double. Despite starting a handful of games this season, the freshman forward hasn't had much of an impact on offense.
But against Alabama, he shredded the Crimson Tide's defense for 15 points and seven rebounds. He ended the game with an exclamation point by throwing down a one-handed dunk.
"Wally today was just playing relaxed, reacting rather than thinking," Martin said. "You can see when a player is getting ready to start playing well. I've been watching it with him. He's little by little been getting better. It's good to see him finally come out and really play well."
The Wildcats played well as a group, too. Martin said he was proud to beat a team of Alabama's caliber.
Alabama, 7-4, entered the game with a good resume, having beaten Baylor and Providence and putting a scare into No. 4 Purdue.
After trailing 42-24 at halftime and by as many as 21 early in the second half, Alabama got back in the game with a 10-0 run that featured a five-point play from Mikhail Torrance, who scored 20 points.
In a strange string of plays, Dominique Sutton fouled Torrance after shooting a three-pointer. Because the ball was in the air at the time of the foul, and K-State had committed enough fouls to be in the double bonus, when it swished through the net Torrance was awarded two free throws. He made both and cut K-State's lead to 61-53 with 7:32 remaining.
But the Wildcats answered back with eight straight points of its own to end the drama.
"I was proud of our guys," Martin said. "We could have unraveled away from home but (we) kind of gathered, held on and made the plays we needed."
During that final stretch, both Pullen and Judge converted traditional three-point plays.