Bulldogs rein in Wildcat guards
If the BYU Cougars ever play the Kansas State Wildcats again, they should consult the Butler Bulldogs.
Butler, similar in makeup to the BYU team that was eliminated a week ago by the Wildcats, executed its offense to perfection in the final five minutes after losing its game-long lead and won Saturday's Elite Eight matchup 63-56 at EnergySolutions Arena to advance to the Final Four.
Kansas State saw its season end at 29-8, thanks in large part to a miserable offensive showing in the first half and leaky defense when the game was on the line.
"They absolutely kicked our tails," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said.
Actually, it was closer than that.
Kansas State took 11 more shots and committed seven fewer turnovers, 20-13. But the Wildcats -- who dominated BYU on the boards in last week's 84-72 win in Oklahoma City -- were outrebounded 41-29 by the smaller, seemingly less athletic Bulldogs.
"They annihilated us on the glass," Martin said.
Playing from behind the first 35 minutes of the game, the Wildcats finally grabbed their first lead at 52-51, when Denis Clemente made a 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining.
But it didn't last.
Butler scored on five straight possessions, while the Wildcats sputtered and failed to keep pace.
The key play for K-State in the sequence was a 3-point try by Jacob Pullen that missed everything. Twenty seconds later, Butler's Ronald Nored made a driving basket, and when Clemente missed a free throw with 1:33 left, the Wildcats' run was pretty much over.
"Not well, not well," Martin said when asked how his team handled its first and only lead. " ... There was a problem for us all night. Their guards got to the rim."
Offensively, Kansas State's biggest problem was getting its superb guard tandem of Pullen and Clemente going. They went a combined 11-for-30 from the field.
Pullen did not score in the first half and finished with 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
Clemente had 18 in his final game as a Wildcat.
"Things just didn't go our way like [they had] been going the rest of the tournament," Pullen said.
The Wildcats trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, but got back into the game in the second half by heating up from 3-point range.
"Real proud of our guys," Martin said. "[They have] given me an unbelievable ride this year. Given K-Staters an unbelievable ride this year."