Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Walker, Beasley lead Kansas State past O.J. Mayo and USC 80-67

March 20, 2008

Advertisement

— Please meet the new Fab Five.

You all know Michael Beasley. Now, let's introduce his very capable supporting cast: Bill Walker, Jacob Pullen, Ron Anderson and Dominique Sutton.

Putting their own stamp on what was expected to be a two-man game, Kansas State's Kiddie Corps carried the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament win since 1988, beating O.J. Mayo and USC 80-67 in the opening round of the Midwest Regional on Thursday night.

"Everybody was so focused on the individual matchup," Pullen said. "We just tried to make it into Kansas State winning the game. That's what we were focused on."

Beasley overcame early foul trouble to have another big game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the 27th double-double of his brilliant - and likely only - college season. The NBA beckons, after all.

But the 11th-seeded Wildcats (21-11) are used to big things from Beasley. It was his supporting cast that made the difference against No. 6 seed USC (21-12).

Walker, a redshirt freshman, scored 22 points. True freshmen Pullen and Anderson also reached double figures. And don't forget the old man of the bunch, 21-year-old freshman Sutton, who stuck to Mayo like a nagging cold.

USC's freshman star signaled his intentions by wearing socks with the NBA logo, but he hardly looked ready for the pros on a 6-for-16 shooting night. Mayo did reach 20 points, but only with a couple of garbage baskets at the end.

"The key was the defense," said Sutton, who got a late start on his college career because of academic problems.

Others chipped in so Sutton didn't have to carry the load by himself against Mayo.

"It was help defense," Pullen said. "We always felt like if Dom was guarding him by himself, we had to help him out. We never left anybody on our team to guard him on an island."

Beasley, Pullen and Anderson weren't even born when Kansas State won its last NCAA tournament game. A Lon Kruger-coached team reached the regional final in 1988 before losing to eventual national champion Kansas. This group certainly has the talent to go deep, and their sometimes-fragile confidence took a giant leap forward.

"They're a team that has a chance to advance and go to the regional final," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "They've got great, great talent."

Walker carried the load in the early going, scoring 17 in the first half before hitting a dagger of a 3-pointer in the closing minutes. Pullen, a lightning-quick guard, scored 11 points and doled out five assists. Anderson, averaging only 3.1 a game, scored 10 and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Wildcats dominate the boards.

Beasley put off his expected jump to the pros for at least one more game. The Wildcats moved on to face third-seeded Wisconsin, which defeated Cal State Fullerton 71-56.

"I was fighting two, three guys," Beasley said. "They face guarded me. I've seen that before. They double-teamed me. I've seen that before. Sometimes I had three guys on me. I've seen that before."

Walker, who missed most of last season after tearing up his left knee, stepped up for the Wildcats after Beasley picked up two early fouls and wound up spending nearly half the opening period on the bench, handing out towels, slapping hands with teammates as they came off the court and checking out the scoreboard from his seat.

Walker accounted for nearly half of Kansas State's points, hitting 6 of 8 from the field - including both 3-point tries - and going 3-for-3 at the foul line to push his team to a 37-27 lead at the break.

Beasley, playing only 11 minutes in the first half as coach Frank Martin subbed him in and out trying to avoid that third foul, managed only five points. But USC wasn't about to keep him down the whole game.

The 6-foot-10 forward kept bullying his way inside, despite constant double-teaming, to pick up three points the old-fashioned way. Beasley made four shots while being fouled, and hit the free throw every time to complete the only trey that existed before the 3-point line.

"I just kept my composure, stayed in the zone and it worked out," he said.

Mayo simply couldn't shake Sutton and the rest of the Wildcats' defenders, who played defense with an intensity that belied their youth. And the inside game evaporated when Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson piled up one foul after another trying to stop Beasley; both of them wound up fouling out.

"The man-to-man defense was aggressive," said Mayo, who never got in much of a groove after missing his first three shots. "They got us out of the flow of our offense. Maybe certain shots we took were rushed, and give credit to Kansas State. They did a great job on the defensive end."

Jefferson had 15 points and Gibson 10, but they were manhandled on the boards. Kansas State had a 44-27 rebounding lead, including 21 at the offensive end to set up 22 second-chance points. The Trojans had three second-chance points.

"We wanted to get every loose board, dominate the boards," the fiery Walker said. "When you do that, you control the game."

USC rallied in the second half, actually pulling ahead for the first time since the opening minute when Mayo stole a pass from Clent Stewart, drove in for the layup and was fouled. The free throw gave the Trojans a 48-47 lead with 13:06 remaining.

It was short lived. The Wildcats went right back to Beasley, who drew the foul and made both free throws to reclaim the lead for Kansas State. Pullen scored on a drive and Beasley followed with his fourth three-point play of the game, pushing the margin to 54-50.

The Wildcats pulled away from there. Walker hit a 3 from the corner for his first points of the second half, making it 67-58 with just under 5 minutes left. Beasley finished off the Trojans with a 3-pointer of his own that stretched it to 72-60.

Kansas State, which finished third in the rugged Big 12, slipped all the way to an 11th seed after losing six of its last nine games heading into the NCAAs, including a quarterfinal loss to Texas A&M in the conference tourney.

But the Kiddie Corps grew up just in the nick of time.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.