Kansas State impresses Texas' Barnes in Big 12 win

David Smale, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No. 11 Kansas State had a big advantage in the number of fans during its 66-49 victory over Texas on Thursday in the second round of the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center.
Count Rick Barnes among the biggest of those fans.
"I think they're the best team in the Big 12," Barnes, the Texas coach, said after the game. "Whether or not that results in a conference (tournament) championship remains to be seen."
Kansas State (26-6) defeated Barnes' Longhorns for the third time this season and sixth time in the last seven tries.
"K-State is really, really good," Barnes said. "I love their make-up. I love the way they play together. They know their roles and they compete. Rodney McGruder is one tough, tough, hard-nosed basketball player."
Kansas State got a game-high 24 points from McGruder, three shy of the school record in a Big 12 tournament game. Angel Rodriguez added 13 points for the Wildcats.
"The shots that I took were open shots," McGruder said. "Angel found me a couple of times on the break and on the wing."
Kansas State grabbed its first double-digit lead at 49-38 with a 3-point shot by McGruder that swished after the buzzer sounded on the shot clock. It keyed an 11-0 run that blew open a seven-point game. McGruder scored eight points during the run.
"Angel did a good job of penetrating," McGruder said. "Fortunately, I was able to make the shot."
Texas cut the lead to 58-47 with a 9-2 run, hitting three straight 3-pointers, but could get no closer. Kansas State closed with an 8-2 run.
A big key for Kansas State was the play of its bench. With Rodriguez and key big man Thomas Gipson picking up their third fouls before the first media timeout of the second half, coach Bruce Weber had to count on his reserves.
"Will (Spradling) seems healthier and it gives us a rotation with Martavious (Irving) coming off the bench," Weber said. "If you start Martavious and Angel gets in foul trouble, Tay (Irving) gets tired and you're in a bind.
"And then D.J. (Johnson), that's how he played early in the year. I'm not sure what lit the fire tonight, but he was sure good. He had seven rebounds -- four offensive -- and eight points. He was a back-breaker for them."
The Longhorns (16-17) will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Barnes. The last time Texas did not make the NCAA field was 1998.
Julien Lewis led Texas with 13 points and Jonathan Holmes added 10.
Texas started quickly, pulling out to a 7-1 lead before Kansas State responded with a 14-2 run. The Wildcats used the long ball as Rodriguez hit 3-pointers and Spradling added one to cap the run.
Both teams struggled from the field in the first half. Texas hit 11 of 26 shots (42.3 percent) and Kansas State made 11 of 27 (40.7 percent).
The Wildcats led 34-28 at halftime because of an advantage from beyond the 3-point arc. Kansas State shot better from long range (6 of 9) than from inside the arc (5 of 14) or even the foul line (6 of 12). Texas hit just 2 of 8 from 3-point range before halftime.
NOTES: Jamar Samuels holds Kansas State's Big 12 tournament scoring record for one game, having put up 27 against Oklahoma State in 2010. ... Texas advanced to the semifinals in 12 of the first 16 years of the Big 12 Championship. The Longhorns have played in the championship game six times, but they've never won it. In fact, no team from Texas has ever won the tournament title. ... Kansas State is coming off its first regular-season conference championship since winning the 1977 Big Eight title. The Wildcats shared the 2013 Big 12 Conference title with Kansas. ... Kansas State lost its first Big 12 tournament game in five of the previous six seasons, including four as the better seed. ... Kansas State improved to 11-0 this season against teams from Texas. The Wildcats swept the season series with Baylor, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech before beating the Longhorns again Thursday. The Wildcats also defeated Lamar and Texas Southern in nonconference play.