KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No. 11 Kansas State used a strong second half to put away No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-57 in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center Friday. With the victory, the Wildcats earn their third shot at in-state rival Kansas in the Saturday's championship game.
Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats (27-6) with 25 points. Martavious Irving added 17.
Oklahoma State (24-8) was led by Marcus Smart with 18 points and Le'Bryan Nash with 11.
The Cowboys appeared to be feeling the effects of a tough quarterfinal game against Baylor Thursday night. The Cowboys led that game by 18 points at halftime, but then saw the Bears storm all the way back to tie the contest with 21 seconds left. Two free throws by Phil Forte gave OSU the lead, but Pierre Jackson's game-winning 3-pointer barely caromed off the rim at the buzzer.
Many of OSU's shots hit the front of the rim, and they seemed a little slow to the loose balls. Oklahoma State shot just 31 percent for the game from the field, though they were 16 of 20 from the line, including 14 of 14 in the second half.
McGruder helped the Wildcats get off to a quick start in the second half. He scored the first eight points for the Cats to open up a 12-point lead at 37-25. Oklahoma State responded with a 6-0 run, but the Wildcats pulled away again on back-to-back 3-pointers by Shane Southwell and Angel Rodriguez, followed by a thunderous dunk by Thomas Gipson.
Oklahoma State kept trying to regain momentum by driving to the basket, but the Cowboys had nothing to show for it.
Both teams struggled from the field in the first half. Oklahoma State was 9 of 28 (32 percent), while Kansas State was 10 of 32 (31 percent). With all those missed shots, rebounding played a critical role. Each squad pulled down 22 rebounds in the half.
Smart carried the Cowboys in the first half. He led all scorers with 12 points. He also grabbed four rebounds as he single-handedly kept the Cowboys close. Only three other players scored for Oklahoma State.
Kansas State offense was more balanced. McGruder led the Wildcats with seven points, while Irving and Rodriguez each tallied six points.
NOTES: Oklahoma State was in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship for the seventh time in the 17-year history of the tournament, and the first time since 2009. The Cowboys have won the tournament twice, in 2004 and 2005. ... Kansas State is appearing in its fourth semifinals, having advanced to the championship game only once (2010). The Wildcats have never won the tournament championship. ... Kansas State won its first conference championship (tied with Kansas) since 1977.