MANHATTAN — With holiday break starting today and their opponent belonging to the just-don't-overlook-them club, Kansas State basketball players admitted they weren't that excited to take the court Monday at Bramlage Coliseum.
"It's the game on the schedule that everybody hates," Jacob Pullen said. "It's that last game before we all get to go home. You really just want to get it over with."
For that reason, which K-State basketball coach Frank Martin surprisingly said he understood, the Wildcats were sluggish at times during a 90-76 win over hapless Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
But the Golden Eagles came into the contest with no wins and left the same way, so there weren't many complaints in the K-State locker room when it was over.
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"It could have been better," said Pullen, who led all scorers with 18 points. "Still should have been more focused and more in tune. Just take the win as a win."
The Wildcats will now break until Dec. 26 with an 11-1 record and No. 12 national ranking. The Golden Eagles dropped to 0-10.
Martin said he was pleased with the development of his team at this point in the season, and chose not to nit-pick the lowlights of Monday's victory.
He said nothing about an 11-0 run that enabled Arkansas-Pine Bluff to cut into a once large 24-point K-State lead and make the score 65-53 with 10:03 remaining in the game.
And when asked about the way his five freshmen played after they combined to score seven points, he complimented the newcomers.
"They're doing great," he said.
Martin was in a chipper mood for two reasons.
No. 1: He said he took a new approach to practice leading up to Monday's game and tried to talk to his players and coach them "through their minds." The approach did not work as well as when he runs drills the whole time.
"Today's game is on me," Martin said.
No. 2: Five K-State players scored in double figures and made several impressive and athletic plays.
"When they had to be good," Martin said. "They were good."
Two big plays stood out from the pack. With time winding down in the first half, senior guard Denis Clemente made a long three-pointer to send K-State into the locker room with a 44-29 lead.
Then, coming out of the break, Dominique Sutton capped off a 15-0 run with a thunderous, two-handed dunk over Stephan Collins and the ensuing free throw.
The play brought the purple-clad crowd to its feet and its replays on the video board at midcourt kept them there.
It was a signature play in a forgettable game.
"It happened so fast," said Sutton, who scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "I just remember stealing it and dunking it."