The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Preseason All-America guard Jacob Pullen, who had made 82 consecutive starts for No. 11 Kansas State, was suspended by the NCAA for three games just before the Wildcats’ game against UNLV on Tuesday night.
In a statement, the school said Pullen and senior forward Curtis Kelly were being punished for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store.
It said the length of Kelly’s suspension had not been determined by the NCAA’s student-athlete reinstatement staff.
On the court, Tre’Von Willis scored 16 points and Oscar Bellfield hit a key 3-pointer in the final 70 seconds, leading UNLV to a 63-59 victory. The Wildcats (9-3) had trouble adjusting to the absence of their senior leaders and top two scorers and lost their second in a row.
Bellfield’s 3-pointer gave the Runnin’ Rebels (11-2) a 59-54 lead with 1:10 to go. Martavious Irving’s running layup sliced the lead to 59-56, but Willis had two foul shots and Bellfield hit one in the final seconds to seal the victory against the highest-ranked team the Rebels had played in the regular season in more than three years.
Nick Russell had 12 points for Kansas State. Rodney McGruder, who lost a tooth in the final minutes when he crashed to the floor after making a steal, had 11.
After Jamar Samuels’ 8-footer gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 40-34, Willis’ bucket ignited a 14-2 spurt by the Rebels capped by Willis’ getting wide open on a give-and-go and a layup by Quintrell Thomas that put UNLV on top 46-42. The Wildcats never led again.
Bellfield’s two free throws put UNLV on top 50-42 but McGruder’s driving layup sliced the lead to 52-51. Anthony Marshall drove in for a bucket, got fouled by Russell, and made the free throw. Samuels’ bucket with 2:29 to go brought Kansas State within two points at 56-54 before Bellfield’s 3-pointer.
Marshall also had 11 points for the Rebels. Irving had 10 for Kansas State
Pullen and Kelly are the two top scorers for Kansas State. Pullen, a four-year starting guard, also will miss games against Missouri-Kansas City and North Florida.
“These young men have worked hard to represent themselves and Kansas State in a positive manner,” head coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “Having said that, they made a mistake in judgment and have to pay a price for that.”
Pullen is the Wildcats’ team leader and preseason choice as Big 12 player of the year. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 3.8 assists and is the first Kansas State player selected to the preseason All-America team. He had played in 115 games and is a three-time team captain.
Kelly is averaging 10.3 points and four rebounds.