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January 30, 2008

Beasley, Kansas State stun No. 2 Jayhawks

Box Score

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State fans had come to call it The Streak, 24 years of home-court futility against Kansas.

All they had to do was wait for one of the greatest players in school history to be born and come to their rescue.

Michael Beasley, who wasn't even alive when the Jayhawks began their 24-game winning streak in the Little Apple, scored 25 points Wednesday night and led the No. 22 Wildcats to an 84-75 victory over previously unbeaten Kansas, touching off a mob scene on center court.

"I know it means a lot around the city, people at the school," said Beasley, who's become a candidate for player of the year as the nation's leading rebounder and No. 4 scorer. "But it's just a game to me."

Freshman guard Jacob Pullen had 20 points and freshman forward Bill Walker had 22, making sure that Beasley, who had guaranteed a Kansas State victory, did not have to eat his words.

"I knew my team was capable of beating anybody," Beasley said. "And we showed it tonight."

Always double- and sometimes triple-teamed when he touched the ball inside, Beasley was held to only eight points in the first half but scored six in a row in the first few minutes after intermission and No. 2 Kansas (20-1, 5-1 Big 12) never caught up.

Beasley was 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point arc as the Wildcats (15-4, 5-0) took over first place in a Big 12 conference they've never even competed in, let alone won.

Kansas, two victories short of matching the best start in its storied basketball history, lost on its rival's homecourt for the first time since 1983. The 24-game streak in an opponent's gym came within one of tying the NCAA Division I record which UCLA set against California from 1961-85.

"It doesn't sting because of The Streak," an obviously disappointed Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It stings because it's our rival. I could care less about The Streak. But I do care about beating our rivals. So, yeah, this one stings more than what most would sting."

Kansas State's victory left No. 1 Memphis, an 89-77 winner Wednesday night over Houston, as the nation's lone unbeaten team.

"We weren't going to run the table," Self said. "As much as I wish we could, that wasn't going to happen. So this could be a good thing for us in the long run. But certainly it stings."

The capacity crowd of 12,528 in Bramlage Coliseum, where Kansas had been 19-0, sensed the victory with more than five minutes to go and security guards, worried about a near-riot, moved near the court.

It didn't keep the floor from being flooded by delirious Wildcats fans, who jumped over the press table and sent reporters, computers and notebooks flying.

Mario Chalmers had 19 points, Brandon Rush had 15 and Darrell Arthur 12 for Kansas, which had beaten Kansas State 35 of the last 36 overall.

"People act like there's just one team in Kansas and we had a chance to show there isn't," said Walker. Then he paused, obviously exhausted. "It was a big win. I'm tired. I can't think right now."

Arthur, the leading scorer in Kansas' well-balanced offense, drew his fourth foul with 13:33 left and went to the bench, weakening the Jayhawks offensively and defensively. After Sherron Collins hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds later to slice Kansas State's lead to 47-45, the Jayhawks went almost seven minutes without a field goal, missing six straight shots.

Beasley, in the meantime, had become his nearly unstoppable self and Pullen was darting in and out and having his best game of the season.

Walker hit a 3-pointer for a 52-45 lead, his first points since drawing his third foul and going to the bench in the first half after throwing a vicious elbow to the face of Chalmers.

Then Pullen hit a 3-pointer, Beasley rebounded Chalmers' miss and put in a thunderous dunk on the other end off a nifty feed from Pullen that made it 57-45.

Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who had combined to average almost six steals this season and rank 1-2 in the Big 12, figured prominently in a game plan that was supposed to have the Jayhawks' quicker, deeper back court dominate the Wildcat guards and create turnovers.

But Kansas State's guards were more than up to the challenge. Pullen had four assists to go with 10-for-10 from the foul line. Clent Stewart, a senior guard, had 11 points and five rebounds. Together they outscored Chalmers and Robinson 31-25.

"I'm tired of people calling our guards raggedy," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "It (bothers) me when I continue to hear people say our guards are inferior to other people's guards. They played like grown men today and we didn't turn it over and we made plays to win."

Kansas, which averaged only 12 turnovers while winning its first 20 games, had 10 in the first half of the rough-and-tumble 263rd meeting of the Sunflower State rivals and wound up with 16.

Sherron Collins had 12 points for the Jayhawks, who came into the game leading the nation with a scoring margin of 24.9 points.

For more coverage of the Kansas State Wildcats, check out GoPowercat.com; for more on the Kansas Jayhawks, check out JayhawkSlant.com.

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