K-State tunes up for Kansas with eighth straight win

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It may sound trite to call a matchup of undefeated teams in conference play a prelude, but that's exactly how No. 16 Kansas State's 69-60 victory over Oklahoma appears. Next on the docket for K-State is No. 4 Kansas. Both teams from the Sunflower State stand 4-0 in the conference.
Rodney McGruder led four Wildcats in double figures with 20 points as K-State overcame a 39-25 deficit in rebounds to move to 15-2. Oklahoma fell to 12-4 (3-1 in the Big 12).
"It was a good, hard-fought conference win and we protected our home court," Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said. "We jumped on Rod's back. We made a bunch of 3's and got the crowd into it.
"Then our defense really picked it up."
Oklahoma's rebounding edge was a surprise against the Big 12's best rebounding team. K-State came into the game with an 8.1 per game rebounding margin, while Oklahoma was eighth with a 2.5 margin. But K-State was able to claim its eight straight victory in spite of the rebounding deficit and Oklahoma's 25-22 edge in field goals thanks in part to a 10-3 advantage from behind the arc.
"It may have looked like (we were daring them to shoot 3-pointers), but it wasn't intentional. They're good shooters," Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said. "(Shane) Southwell really adds something to them with his ability to step out and hit 3's. McGruder is a terrific player and (Will) Spradling is a good shooter."
Balance was the key for Kansas State. Besides McGruder's 20 points, Spradling had 15 and Southwell and Angel Rodriguez had 12 each.
"It was Rod in the first half, Will in the second half, Angel down the stretch and Shane consistently throughout the whole game," Weber said. "That was good balance with a lot of positive things."
McGruder came into the game third in the conference in scoring, but no other Wildcat ranked in the top 20. As has been the case during Kansas State's eight-game winning streak, McGruder had at least one other teammate step up in the scoring column. But for the first time, he had three. He was glad to have the help after so many games early in the year when he had only one scoring sidekick.
"Will did a great job, as did Angel and Shane," he said. "We've got a lot of guys who can score."
Oklahoma was led by Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye with 12 points each, while Steven Pledger added 10. But Kruger said that Kansas State just outplayed his squad.
"It was a tough ballgame," he said. "We got off to a good start, but Kansas State played well late in the first half. We tried to battle to get back in the game, but we couldn't take care of the ball, and that's entirely Kansas State. I thought their defense was outstanding."
Kansas State held an eight-point lead at halftime and built enough of a lead in the early stages of the second half to hold off the Sooners.
Oklahoma outscored K-State 7-2 to start the half, but Spradling hit a foul-line jumper and a 3-pointer to start K-State on a 12-3 run to open up a 14-point lead at 51-37. Oklahoma answered with a 9-3 spurt to get within six. But the Sooners could get no closer.
Rodriguez scored seven of K-State's nine points during a key stretch late in the half to help the Cats maintain their lead.
The game was expected to be low scoring, as Oklahoma and K-State ranked in the middle of the conference in scoring but near the top in scoring defense. The only surprise was the Sooners' prowess on the glass.
Oklahoma pounded the boards in the first half, holding a 20-10 edge.
McGruder exploded late in the first half with three 3-pointers to turn a 23-21 deficit into a 30-25 lead. After going the first 10 minutes of the opening half without scoring, McGruder hit two free throws before unleashing his long-range jump shot.
The largest lead of the half by either team was five, until K-State went on a 14-4 run to close the half.
NOTES: It was a homecoming for part of the Oklahoma staff. Head coach Lon Kruger (class of 1975), assistant Steve Henson (class of 1990) and director of basketball operations Mike Shepherd (class of 1992) all graduated from Kansas State. Kruger and Henson rank in the top 18 in career scoring in K-State history and both are on the school's All-Century team for the 1900s. ... Kansas State is 4-0 in the Big 12 Conference for only the second time in the 18-year history of the conference (2010). ... The eight-game winning streak is the longest for K-State since the 2002-03 season.

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