MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Before heading off to the Pac-10, Colorado is settling some old scores in the Big 12.
The resurgent Buffs knocked off then-No. 9 Missouri 89-76 on Saturday for their first victory over a ranked team in almost seven years. On Wednesday night, Levi Knutson scored 20 points and the Buffs held off No. 21 Kansas State 74-66 for their first win over a ranked team on the road in 14 years.
Long a Big 12 doormat, Colorado had lost nine in a row to Kansas State and was winless in Manhattan since 2005.
“We’re trying to start a new chapter,” said senior guard Cory Higgins, whose coast-to-coast layup in the final minutes helped seal the win. “It’s a whole new Colorado.”
Alec Burks and Marcus Relphorde added 12 points for Colorado (13-4, 2-0 Big 12), which erased an 11-point deficit in the first half and outrebounded Kansas State 38-29.
“It’s a huge testament to our guys’ grit and toughness,” said first-year coach Tad Boyle. “It is not easy winning on the road in college basketball, especially in an environment like this. Tonight’s win shows where our players are in terms of their belief in each other.”
Jacob Pullen scored 22 points for Kansas State (12-5, 0-2).
“This one hurt, man,” said Pullen. “Four years as a Wildcat, I never lost to Colorado. No disrespect to them but I just always felt that we had the better team. Losing to them tonight hurt a lot.”
Martavious Irving’s free throw cut Colorado’s lead to 68-65, then Andre Roberson left the door open for Kansas State when he missed two free throws with 1:12 remaining.
Jamar Samuels was fouled while fighting Higgins for a rebound and made one of two free throws to pull Kansas State to 68-66 with 58 seconds left.
But Higgins, saddled with four fouls, drove the court and went in uncontested for a layup and a four-point lead. Burks was fouled by Samuels and made both free throws to seal it, with one angry fan screaming at Kansas State Frank Martin, “This is on you, Frank.”
Since Dec. 23, when Pullen was suspended for three games and Curtis Kelly for six, the Wildcats are 3-3 with victories over programs that did not figure to compete against them anyway: UMKC, North Florida and Savannah State.
Kelly, a 6-7 senior averaging 10.3 points and four rebounds, is eligible to return on Saturday against Texas Tech and will try to keep the Wildcats from falling out of the rankings after starting the season at No. 3.
“If he comes out focused, prepared, ready to play, it should mean a lot,” said Pullen. “If he comes out and knows what’s going on, then we’re in the same boat.”
Knutson was 6 for 8 from 3-point range to match a career high. Higgins and Roberson each had nine points for Colorado, which is making its last tour of the Big 12 before moving to the Pac-10 next year.
The Buffs will leave the Big 12 with an overall record in Manhattan of 10-54.
“We are a totally different team this year, period,” said Knutson.
Pullen almost single-handedly kept the Wildcats close, driving in twice in the final 5 1/2 minutes for a layup and drawing a foul. The first time, he popped in the free throw for a three-point play but missed the second time, leaving Colorado with a 66-64 lead with 3:56 left.
A 3 by Knutson put Colorado’s lead back in double digits at 54-44, but Pullen scored the next five points on a pair of free throws and a long 3-pointer that brought a roar from the big home crowd.
Will Spradling, fouled while shooting a 3, stepped to the line and netted all three free throws, closing the gap to 54-52 before Knutson hit another 3 to swing the momentum back to Colorado.
Pullen then ignited a 9-0 run by the Wildcats which he capped with a pair of free throws for a 33-24 lead.
Then back came the Buffs, closing the half on a 9-0 run of their own. Knutson hit his second 3-pointer and Relphorde, in the waning seconds, stole the ball from Irving and drove the floor for a dunk.
Rodney McGruder and Irving each had 12 points for Kansas State, the preseason pick to win the Big 12 title.
“We’re not very disciplined,” said Kansas State coach Frank Martin. “Mentally, we have some rough patches as far as being able to get through the tough moments. We got out-toughed, outplayed, out-coached.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)