|Fabulous freshmen Michael Beasley (right) of Kansas State and O.J. Mayo of USC, both of whom are likely headed to the NBA next season, embrace after the Wildcats' win. (JAMIE SQUIRE/Getty Images)|
No kidding, it's K-State
Wildcat freshmen overpower USC
OMAHA - Please meet the new Fab Five.
You all know Michael Beasley. Now, let's introduce his very capable supporting cast: Bill Walker, Jacob Pullen, Ron Anderson, and Dominique Sutton.
Putting their own stamp on what was expected to be a two-man game, Kansas State's Kiddie Corps carried the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament win since 1988, beating O.J. Mayo and Southern Cal, 80-67, in the opening round of the Midwest Regional last night.
"Everybody was so focused on the individual matchup," Pullen said. "We just tried to make it into Kansas State winning the game. That's what we were focused on."
Beasley overcame early trouble to have another big game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the 27th double-double of his brilliant - and likely only - college season. The NBA beckons, after all.
But the 11th-seeded Wildcats (21-11) are used to big things from Beasley. It was his supporting cast that made the difference against No. 6 seed USC (21-12).
Walker, a redshirt freshman, scored 22 points. True freshmen Pullen and Anderson also reached double figures. And don't forget the old man of the bunch, 21-year-old freshman Sutton, who stuck to Mayo like a nagging cold.
USC's freshman star signaled his intentions by wearing socks with the NBA logo, but he hardly looked ready for the pros on a 6-for-16 shooting night. Mayo did reach 20 points, but only with a couple of garbage baskets.
"The key was the defense," said Sutton, who got a late start on his college career because of academic problems.
Others chipped in so Sutton didn't have to carry the load by himself against Mayo.
"It was help defense," Pullen said. "We always felt like if Dom was guarding him by himself, we had to help him out. We never left anybody on our team to guard him on an island."
Beasley, Pullen, and Anderson weren't even born when Kansas State won its last NCAA Tournament game. A Lon Kruger-coached team reached the regional final in 1988 before losing to eventual national champion Kansas. This group certainly has the talent to go deep, and their sometimes-fragile confidence took a giant leap forward.
"They're a team that has a chance to advance and go to the regional final," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "They've got great, great talent."
Walker carried the load in the early going, scoring 17 points in the first half before hitting a dagger of a 3-pointer in the closing minutes. Pullen, a lightning-quick guard, scored 11 points and doled out five assists. Anderson, averaging only 3.1 points a game, scored 10 and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Wildcats dominate the boards.
Beasley put off his expected jump to the pros for at least one more game. The Wildcats moved on to face third-seeded Wisconsin, which defeated Cal State Fullerton, 71-56.
"I was fighting two, three guys," Beasley said. "They face guarded me. I've seen that before. They double-teamed me. I've seen that before. Sometimes I had three guys on me. I've seen that before."
Walker, who missed most of last season after tearing up his left knee, stepped up for the Wildcats after Beasley picked up two early fouls and wound up spending nearly half the opening period on the bench, handing out towels and slapping hands with teammates as they came off the court.
Walker accounted for nearly half of Kansas State's points, hitting 6 of 8 from the field - including both 3-point tries - and going 3 for 3 at the foul line to push his team to a 37-27 lead at the break.
Beasley, playing only 11 minutes in the first half as coach Frank Martin subbed him in and out trying to avoid that third foul, managed only 5 points. But USC wasn't about to keep him down the whole game.