#13 Kansas State was not at 100 percent Monday night, with starter Jordan Henriquez in New York for his grandmother’s funeral and Will Spradling questionable after taking a hard shot to the chest while coming off a screen on Saturday. It showed. The Wildcats (23-5, 12-3) didn’t hold a double digit lead until just seven minutes left to play, but dominated the game from there while downing Texas Tech (9-17, 2-13), 75-55.
For a team that starts four guards, it’s important to have one big man to clog the middle and keep the opposition in check. However, 6’11” Jordan Henriquez was not available to lend his shot-blocking ability, leaving the start to Thomas Gipson while Nino Williams provided a spark from the bench. The two combined to be the most important players in the game. Gipson was an incredibly efficient 7-of-9 for 20 points and eight rebounds. Williams dumped in another 11 points to go along with seven boards to help K-State keep pace with KU for first in the Big 12.
Rodney McGruder (10) and Angel Rodriguez (16) showed up on the scoreboard at the end of the game, but it wasn’t until the final five minutes that either contributed many buckets. Rather, they just kept feeding the big men down low while playing something that one could argue was defense, but maybe not. The Wildcats only took a 31-30 lead into halftime. The most heartening statistic was the foul total at the end of the game: after trying to send everyone to the bench for foul trouble over the past two weeks, the team only incurred 15 personal fouls which led to only 12 free throw attempts by Texas Tech. The only player that ever encountered foul trouble was little-used Adrian Diaz, who managed to accrue three fouls in only five minutes – but had a monster slam at the end of the game to punctuate the win.
K-State demonstrated it can win any way it needs by going low early and often. The Wildcats only made three of their 16 three point attempts (19 percent), two nights after shooting 9-of-18 at Texas. However, those misses were turned into second points as K-State had almost many offensive rebounds (13) as Tech had total (18). The rebounding advantage was more than double for Kansas State, 38-18.
The Wildcats have not moved from the number 13 spot for three straight weeks, despite three straight wins. Part of the reason is that the team has been far from impressive, struggling to pull away from subpar West Virginia and Texas squads. Though the win was difficult to watch at times, the 20-point margin of victory will provide some pizzazz for voters looking for a reason to believe in the team. Kansas State heads to Baylor (16-11, 7-7) on Saturday to take on a Bears squad it also defeated by 20 points two weeks ago. The last two games on the schedule are a gimme at home against TCU (don’t tell KU that), and the huge road trip to #15 Oklahoma State to close out the season.