MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Now a wiley veteran, Kansas State senior guard Jacob Pullen knew all the preseason accolades would not guarantee a smooth season opener against James Madison.
He was right.
The third-ranked Wildcats overcame a sluggish start and awful free throw shooting to beat James Madison 75-61 on Friday night.
"It's not going to be perfect in a first game," Pullen said. "We lacked some energy and had some guys who were nervous. But I thought our guards picked it up defensively."
Pullen, an AP preseason All-American, scored 20 points and was 7 of 11 from the free throw line while his teammates went a combined 10 of 21.
Rayshawn Goins scored 17 points to lead James Madison.
After allowing the Dukes to shoot 50 percent and outscore them 22-10 in the paint during the first half, the Wildcats found their stride in the second. A 3-pointer by Pullen and a dunk by Rodney Magruder started the run and Magruder and Pullen hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the 17-5 burst to start the second half. Kansas State led 55-35 with 13:41 to play and never led by less than 14 after that.
The Dukes committed 15 of their 26 turnovers in the second half, and many of those led to open shots. The Wildcats were 10 of 19 from the 3-point line and scored 21 points off turnovers.
"We didn't think they would shoot it that well," Dukes guard Devon Moore said. "It was poor rotation. But they also hit shots. That's what good teams do."
K-State's Nick Russell scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half.
A key for Kansas State was containing James Madison senior Denzel Bowles, who last season became the first player to lead the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. The 6-foot-10 Bowles had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, but six of his points came with the game well in hand.
Julius Wells and Moore each scored 13 points for the Dukes.
Armed with the highest preseason ranking in school history, Kansas State did not get off to a smashing start. James Madison scored the game's first six points, and it was still 19-19 after 10 minutes thanks to Goins, who scored 12 first-half points.
"It was complete breakdown after complete breakdown defensively," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "Those are things we're going to have to grow up with and overcome."
The Wildcats had trouble extending a lead despite making five of their first six 3-point attempts, the five successful ones coming in a four-minute span. K-State's Martavious Irving, who did not score more than eight points in a game last season, had two of the 3s.
K-State went on a 7-1 run over a span of just more than four minutes to lead 26-21. A three-point play from Pullen and five straight points from freshman Will Spradling helped the Wildcats take a 38-30 halftime lead.