Kansas State saw preseason All-Big 12 selection Rodney McGruder have another off night. It didn’t need him to be a star, as his seven points helped K-State eek out a 52-50 win at Oklahoma on Saturday night. McGruder only managed to hit two of his eight shots but contributed nine rebounds and was only on the court for 27 minutes after beginning the Big 12 season playing 35 minutes per game.
This was a complete team game, with solid defense and no one playing more than 31 minutes. Yet anyone who contests the notion that Angel Rodriguez is the heart and soul of this team is crazy. His quick hands and constant pressure force turnovers, and helped K-State create 14 Oklahoma turnovers. His constant motion and willingness to slash to the basket, attracting defenders while kicking the ball out to open teammates helped him accumulate three assists. Most importantly, the sophomore guard calmly knocked down two free throws with 5.6 seconds left after getting fouled on a drive to put K-State ahead 52-50 after the Sooners tied the game late. On Oklahoma’s final possession, Rodriguez took away a passing lane that created hesitation while the Sooners attempted to push the ball downcourt. A desperate three point shot fell well short and K-State returned the favor of Lon Kruger’s Sooners sweep last year with a sweep of their own this season.
It was another defensive slugfest for the Wildcats as both teams failed to reach 40 field goal shooting. Will Spradling led the team with 12 points on five-of-eight shooting, hitting two of his four three point shots. Martavious Irving put in another ten off the bench while Jordan Henriquez got the start tonight and had eight in only 13 minutes. Overall, the team found itself in foul trouble once again and accumulated 18 personal fouls to only 12 for Oklahoma. However, they had six more steals than the Sooners, more assists, and hit 71.4 percent of their free throws.
Both teams struggled early and often, but it appeared K-State was going to pull away when Jordan Henriquez scored with a putback of Irving’s miss to put K-State up 40-32 with 7:49 left in the game. The slow pace of the game to that point made an eight point game insurmountable, and a jumper by Shane Southwell with four minutes left reestablished an eight point lead at 48-40. However, anyone willing to turn the channel at that point missed an exciting comeback attempt as the Sooners hit a three with a minute to play and a layup with 13 seconds left to tie the game at 50. However, Rodriguez took over from there to secure the win.
With the loss by KU to Oklahoma State earlier today, K-State (17-4, 6-2) pulls within a game of first place in the Big 12. The trip to Lawrence on February 11 looms large.