MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Curtis Kelly was in street clothes and Jacob Pullen was on the bench -- not exactly the ideal place for Kansas State's only two seniors while facing an experienced and well-traveled Virginia Tech.
Martavious Irving, Rodney McGruder and Nick Russell came off the bench to hold things together in the first half and then helped spark a 28-9 run when Pullen got back, carrying the third-ranked Wildcats to a 73-57 victory Friday over the Hokies (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP).
"When they saw me go out with that second foul, a lot of them just put their chins up and stepped up to the challenge," said Pullen, who got in quick foul trouble and played just 2 minutes in the second half. "Good teams don't win games because of a person. They win games because of a team. Today the team just came together."
Kelly, a 6-foot-8 senior who's being heavily counted on this season by the Wildcats (2-0), missed his second straight game because of unspecified disciplinary action. But the cold-shooting Hokies (1-1) failed to take advantage and Kansas State led 30-29 at halftime. Then, after Malcolm Delaney's basket put Virginia Tech on top 40-38 early in the second half, McGruder got the Wildcats rolling on a decisive 28-9 run.
"Everybody had a big play, a big play that was a momentum-builder or to sustain the run," said Pullen, the Wildcats' preseason All-American. "That's all you can ask for, is your team to be prepared."
Twice during the second half the Virginia Tech bench was called for a technical foul, and it hurt the Hokies. Each time, Pullen made two free throws.
"I have nothing to say about the officiating," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "They do their job. I do mine."
Asked what he was trying to tell the officials when the technicals were called, he said, "There were a lot of things I was trying to say, but honestly there wasn't a lot of listening going on."
Delaney, the top returning scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, had 22 points for Virginia Tech. Pullen, McGruder and Jamar Samuels all had 13 for Kansas State while Jordan Henriquez-Roberts had 10 and Irving nine.
Kansas State coach Frank Martin, not always easy to please, admitted he was proud of the way his young players handled adversity.
"Effort's not an issue with our team," he said. "It's a matter of us staying focused on the task at hand, and not having breakdowns. We made mistakes but we were more attentive to our jobs."
Two baskets by McGruder helped get the big run started, then Freddy Asprilla blocked Victor Davila's shot and Irving drained the first of his 3-pointers. Delaney's 3-pointer a moment later was answered by another 3 by Irving. After a free throw by Samuels, McGruder hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats their biggest lead, 53-44, with 8:40 to go.
Samuels' basket put Kansas State on top 59-49 with 5:16 to go, then during a subsequent timeout the first technical was called on the Virginia Tech bench. Pullen made both free throws for a 61-49 lead.
After another 3-pointer by Irving, Henriquez-Roberts blocked a Virginia Tech shot and Pullen teamed with Samuels on the other end for a dunk off an alley-oop pass for a 66-49 lead.
Delaney's usually unerring foul shot failed him in the first half. After hitting his first two from the line, making him 13 for 13 for the season, the 6-foot-3 senior missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
For the game, he was 8 for 9 from the line, making him 19 for 20 in two games.
Both teams shot miserably in the first half, with Kansas State hitting only 12 of 33 and Virginia Tech making 9 of 25. The Wildcats were equally weak at the foul line, going 3 for 11. For the game, Kansas State hit only 41 percent while Virginia Tech hit 35 percent on 19 of 55 shooting.
"We can't win games against teams of this caliber if we give up, I think, 12 offensive rebounds in the second half and don't get 50-50 balls, and we didn't get 50-50 balls," Greenberg said. "I thought they just found a way to get the loose balls. We did a bad job on that one stretch in defensive transition. They really pushed it hard and we didn't get the ball under control and then eventually they started to make a couple shots."