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Wildcats must recover after classic

SALT LAKE CITY — Long after the jump shots stop falling and their ballyhooed beards go gray, Kansas State players will look back on the game as one of the best they ever played.

Same for the guys at Xavier, hard as it will be to appreciate.

Jacob Pullen, the guard who brought the phrase "Fear the Beard" to the Little Apple, hit two 3-pointers in the second overtime as the Wildcats outlasted the Musketeers 101-96 late Thursday in the West semis.

An instant classic.

"It was two teams that didn't want their season to end," Pullen said after the game.

It added another dramatic chapter to a tournament that has been crazy. This was the fifth game to go to overtime and second to double overtime.

A day later, Pullen, who scored 28, said he was much more excited than tired.

He said his thoughts were racing too much for him to fall asleep. He just stayed in his hotel bed, remembering what he and the Wildcats had just done and could do. If Kansas State beats Butler today, it will be its first Final Four berth since 1964.

"We're antsy to play. Any team would be antsy to play. It's a big game," said Pullen, whose school hadn't reached the region final since 1988. "At the same time, we're still focused. We're still calm."

Xavier sought its third trip to the region final in seven years. It missed, just barely, but it was hard to call anyone a loser.

"As good a game as I've ever coached or been a part of," coach Chris Mack said.

Trailing by three in regulation, Xavier's Terrell Holloway got fouled while heaving up a 30-footer with five seconds left and made all three free throws. Xavier was down by three late in the first overtime, but Jordan Crawford jacked up a 35-footer that hit nothing but net.

"It was just one of those moments," Pullen said after the game.

One that belongs on YouTube, right beside Crawford's dunk on LeBron James.

"When you make a couple of them shots, you do kind of start to think that it's meant to be," said Crawford, a sophomore who scored a career-high 32. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way."

For Kansas State, the victory might land in a more permanent archive.

It was the next great moment in a season that took on its personality in January, when Pullen let the beard he grows along his jaw turn into something Abe Lincoln could love. The school went along, giving fans fake beards at home games.

Now, the whole team has facial hair and fans wear T-shirts that read, "Fear the Beard."

Only entertaining if the team plays well, and at this point, there's no arguing that.

"I expected it to be a hard-fought game. I didn't expect it to be like this," Wildcats coach Frank Martin said after the win. "But (Xavier was) phenomenal.

"And our guys were pretty good, too."

Wildcats must recover after classic 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 10:16pm]
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