MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State has been waiting all season for Denis Clemente to find his shot. The senior has done everything else right, running the offense, distributing, playing solid defense. Just not scoring.
Coming off a disappointing loss, Clemente couldn't have picked a better time to break out.
Clemente scored 20 of his 24 points in a dominating first half and Kansas State (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) rode its stifling defense to an 88-65 rout over Texas A&M Tuesday night.
"Denis doesn't like losing. Plays to win," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "That loss a couple days ago? Didn't go down in his stomach real good. You saw the way he came out today; he was going to put them on his back and he was going to make sure we went out and found a way to win."
Kansas State (14-2, 1-1 Big 12) quickly erased the memory of Saturday's struggle against Missouri with a resounding win in its conference home opener. The Wildcats jumped on Texas A&M early and kept the Aggies down with a harassing defense to set a Bramlage Coliseum record with their 13th straight win -- 10th this season.
They did it with balance.
Clemente had six assists and hit five 3-pointers. Pullen, after a slow-motion start, finished with 15 points. The front court was much better than the barely-there performance against the Tigers. Jamar Samuels had 19 points and Dominique Sutton had 12 points and 12 rebounds, helping Kansas State outrebounded Texas A&M by 15.
The defense, as usual, was stout. Kansas State held Texas A&M to 36 percent shooting and limited leading scorer Donald Sloan to eight points -- 10 below his average.
A good all-around win coming off a frustrating loss.
"We were focused and we were a little upset coming off the Missouri game," Sutton said.
Coming off a solid home win over Nebraska in its conference opener, Texas A&M (12-4, 1-1) faces a brutal week that opened with Kansas State and ends Saturday in Austin against new No. 1 Texas.
This wasn't how the Aggies wanted to get it started.
Unable to match Kansas State's energy early, Texas A&M trailed by as much as 15 in the first half, sealed its fate by failing to hit a field goal the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second. The Aggies struggled from the perimeter for the second straight game, hitting 2 of 17 from 3-point range after going 3 for 21 against Nebraska.
"We've got some guys who have got to grow up," Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. "We're playing two sophomores and two freshmen a lot and they're not ready to play. They just didn't play well and they've got to play better."
The outcome shouldn't have been much of a surprise; Big 12 home teams are a staggering 113-1 at home this season.
The Wildcats didn't leave much doubt the trend would continue.
Three days after getting almost nothing from its front line against Missouri, Kansas State dominated inside early. The Wildcats had 10 rebounds before Texas A&M got its first and grabbed four offensive boards in the first 3 1/2 minutes, jumping out to a 13-4 lead.
Texas A&M never really recovered. The Aggies made a few brief runs early, but Kansas State gradually pulled away in first half, turned it into a rout with a 11-1 run to start the second.
"Maybe I was too nice to them at halftime," Turgeon said. "Maybe I should have screamed and yelled more. We were just out of it to start the second half."
Clemente gave Kansas State the early spark.
The Wildcats had been waiting for Clemente to find his range. Last year's leading scorer, he's only scored in spurts this season, shooting 28 percent from 3-point range.
Boy, was Clemente feeling against Texas A&M, hitting five 3s in the first half.
And it wasn't just that he was making shots. It was how he was making them.
Two 3-pointers came on pull-ups in transition that barely made the net ripple. Another came on a clock-beating 25-footer to clean up a disjointed possession. For good measure, Clemente, added an offbalance flip off a loose ball for a three-point play that put Kansas State up 35-21.
"At times, I didn't even attempt to go after rebounds because his shots looked so good I ran back," Samuels said.
If it was just Clemente, maybe the Aggies survive. But they couldn't stop Samuels, either.
The athletic sophomore leaped over and slashed around the Aggies for 12 points by halftime, helping Kansas State to a 45-33 lead. The Wildcats never let Texas A&M any closer, grinding their way through a second half filled with 32 fouls.
"Along with Denis, he played with a chip on his shoulder," Martin said. "He played like a wounded dog and that's the way you've got to play. That's what leadership's all about."
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