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McGruder's big half carries K-State to victory

The SportsXchange

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Rodney McGruder wasn't half bad.

McGruder scored 26 of his game-high 28 points in the second half as No 25 Kansas State edged No. 22 Oklahoma State, 73-67, on Saturday in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.

McGruder hit two big 3-point shots in the final 2:15, the first breaking a 64-64 tie. After Marcus Smart hit 1-of-2 from the line to cut it to 67-65, McGruder hit another one from beyond the arc to open a five-point lead.

"When you're going to beat real good teams, someone has to be special," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "Rod was special."

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford was not surprised by McGruder's effort. He just wished his team had an answer.

"If you let one guy go off in a close game for 26 in the second half, you're not going to win the game," he said. "We did a little switching on him, so different guys got caught on him. It was one great player going off. He made some tough shots.

"They're a good team. You don't beat Florida and not be good. I knew McGruder was that good."

Smart led Oklahoma State (11-3, 0-1) with 25 points and Markel Brown added 19.

"We've got to give those guys more help," Ford said. "We had two guys carrying the load."

Weber was pleased with his team's toughness, especially controlling the boards. Kansas State held a 39-29 edge in rebounds, including 12-5 on the offensive end.

"I thought the battle of the boards was going to be the key," Weber said. "When you win by 10, with seven more offensive boards, it allows us to come down and get Rodney going."

As big as McGruder was for the Wildcats, reserve Nino Williams was nearly as big. He scored 13 of his career-high 17 points in the second half.

All but two of his points came inside or from the foul line.

"Nino goes hard every day in practice," McGruder said of Williams. "You just never know what you're going to get from him. He goes hard every play. You saw the put-backs he had today."

But McGruder was the story for Kansas State (12-2, 1-0).

"I had some shots that I could have made in the first half," he said. "We were down so I just wanted to be a leader and step up.

"I just tried to be aggressive for my team, and then guys stepped up. Nino played tremendously. It was a great team effort. It was real big. Coach reminded us that there are only three ranked teams in the conference, counting us, Oklahoma State and Kansas. So it was big."

McGruder scored 15 points in the first 7:22 of the second half after being held to two points in the first half.

"I was more assertive and aggressive," he said of his halftime adjustment. "I got it going a little bit."

Le'Bryan Nash, who came into the game as Oklahoma State's leading scorer at 14.4 points per game, was held to six points. Oklahoma State managed only 40 percent shooting from the field, including 9-of-23 in the second half.

The first half showed two evenly-matched teams. The second and third best scoring defenses in the conference held each other to identical 11-of-26 marks (42.3 percent) from the field.

The 32-30 halftime edge enjoyed by the Cowboys was due to two extra free throws.

The Cowboys were led by two players in double-figures in the first half, Brown with 12 and Smart with 11. The Wildcats were led by Gipson, who tallied seven points.

Eight of nine Wildcats who played scored in the first half.

NOTES: Kansas State moved to 10-0 at home this season. The win also clinched K-State's 67th consecutive straight winning season at home, the top mark in NCAA Division I. The last time Kansas State had a losing record at home was in 1945-46, when the Wildcats went 3-5 in Nichols Gym. ... Oklahoma State fell to 12-6 all-time in Big 12 Conference openers, with the loss snapping a streak of seven straight victories. ... Kansas State owns a 73-48 all-time record against Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys are 13-6 in Big 12 play, including a 5-4 record in Manhattan.

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