MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Jacob Pullen sure didn't look like he'd missed the last three games.
The preseason All-American scored 24 points in his return from a suspension, and No. 17 Kansas State cruised to a 92-61 win over Savannah State on Monday night in the Wildcats' final tune up before Big 12 play.
"This is basketball," Pullen said. "It's the one place I feel comfortable all the time, no matter what is going on in life. Basketball is always my comfort zone."
Pullen was 7 of 8 from the field in the first half and hit three 3-pointers, showing little rust after missing time for receiving impermissible clothing benefits from a local store.
Fellow senior Curtis Kelly is still suspended for his role in receiving impermissible benefits. He is not eligible to return until Jan. 15 against Texas Tech.
"I feel like a lot of people do not believe I should have been a preseason All-America," Pullen said. "That is motivation and I love when people do that. I love when people doubt me. It has been the story of my life."
The game was tied at 18 before Pullen went to work, capping a 19-point spurt prior to halftime with a nifty drive and left-handed layup at the buzzer, after Kansas State coach Frank Martin had called timeout with 4.7 seconds left to set up the final play.
"I could tell by the way he has practiced since he got back from Christmas that he's pretty zoned in," Martin said. "He took good shots, passed the basketball. He kept the game simple."
Kansas State (12-3) led 46-35 by halftime and coasted after the break.
"He's a gamer," Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said of Pullen, who gained national acclaim during last year's NCAA tournament. "He's one of the best guys in college."
Wally Judge liked what he saw during Pullen's return to the floor.
"A lot of 3s going up," Judge said. "It's good to have a strong guard back in the lineup. Just to have one of our senior leaders back means a lot."
Preston Blackmon scored 19 points and Jovonni Shuler had 15 for Savannah State (2-15), which has played 12 of its last 15 games on the road. The Tigers keep the trip going at Nebraska on Wednesday night before visiting Marshall next weekend.
Savannah State didn't look weary early, sticking with the bigger Wildcats until Pullen fueled their big run late in the first half. Kansas State was more balanced on offense in the second half, when Judge and Rodney McGruder got into the act.
McGruder hit consecutive jumpers and Judge scored in transition to make it 63-45, and Pullen added a 3-pointer with 8:53 left from the right wing that made it 83-53.
McGruder finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while Judge had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Jamar Samuels added 11 points as Kansas State shot 47 percent (31 of 66) from the field and 21 of 31 from the foul line -- a modest 67 percent clip that far exceeds their season average, which had been among the worst in the nation.
Judge said some harsh criticism from Martin about rebounding set the tone for him.
"Frank made me mad," he said. "After he said something to me, I took it as a personal vendetta to go out there and grab every rebound."
Savannah State fared better offensively than the last time it visited Bramlage Coliseum, an 85-25 blitz in 2008 that set the record for fewest points by an opponent in arena history.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, begin Big 12 play at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
"Everything you do is wrapped around competing for your conference," Martin said. "It's all about the Big 12."
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|South Carolina State||12-4||1||19-15|
|North Carolina Central||7-9||6||13-19|
|North Carolina A&T||7-9||6||10-22|