Kansas State sits atop Big 12 after fourth win in a row

The SportsXchange

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State's four-game winning streak, coupled with Kansas' three-game losing streak, has the No. 13-ranked Wildcats right where they want to be.

Almost.

"It feels good, but it's not the end of the Big 12 (season)," said K-State senior guard Rodney McGruder, who led all scorers with 22 points in K-State's 79-70 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.

The Wildcats own a one-game lead in the conference over Kansas and Oklahoma, but they know that lead can be erased in one night.

"We can't really think about (first place)," McGruder said. "We just have to go out every night and compete. We now have a target on our back because we're in first place. Guys want that spot."

Kansas State (19-4, 8-2) likely will head into the rematch with No. 5 Kansas on Monday night ranked higher than the Jayhawks for the first time since anyone wearing purple can remember. The Wildcats know they have to play the way they've been playing without worrying about who they're playing.

"I feel like every game we've won is a statement," said Angel Rodriguez, who scored 20 points for the Wildcats. "It's a long season. We're halfway through the Big 12. We've got to go to other buildings, like KU's, but we can't settle for where we are."

K-State has not won a conference championship in basketball since 1977 when the Wildcats were in the Big Eight Conference.

K-State used the outside shot to its advantage against Iowa State (16-7, 6-4). The Wildcats, who are the leading 3-point shooting team in the conference in terms of percentage, went 9 of 18 from beyond the arc. Iowa State, also known as a long-range shooting team, was 12 of 27.

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said the difference was second-chance points and points off turnovers.

"We did a great job in the first half on the glass," he said. "But they got too many (offensive rebounds) at key times down the stretch. It seemed like every time a shot went up they got the rebound and that led to points.

"We got outscored 20-10 on second-chance points and 27-13 on points off turnovers. That's just too many to beat a great team on the road."

The Wildcats pulled away in the second half to avenge an earlier loss in Ames, Iowa.

"That was a high-level game between two very good teams," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We got off to a great start and they came back. We had to grind it out. We were all emotional because I thought we were going too fast. We told them at halftime to take a deep breath."

Both teams came out in the second half trading mini-spurts. After Iowa State scored the first bucket to claim a one-point lead, runs of 5-0 and 8-0 for K-State and 5-0 and 5-0 for Iowa State had the two teams nearly deadlocked.

K-State pulled away to a 46-39 lead early in the second half, but Tyrus McGee scored 11 straight Iowa State points, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range, and the score was tied again at 50.

Kansas State used a 12-3 run to extend a one-point lead to 65-55 with 6:12 left. The Cyclones could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

NOTES: All but one of Kansas State's losses have come against teams currently ranked among the top six teams in the country, and one of its wins did as well. The Wildcats have lost to No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Gonzaga on neutral courts and at home to No. 5 Kansas. They also beat No. 2 Florida on a neutral court. ... The lone K-State loss to an unranked team was a 59-55 decision at Iowa State on Jan. 26. ... Iowa State came into the game leading the Big 12and was among the top 10 teams in the nation in scoring (78.7, eighth in the country) and 3-point field goals per game (9.1, sixth).
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