The University of Kansas made a statement last night, downing Texas Tech by the score of 79-42. Hoping to make a similar statement tonight, the Wildcats started hot but struggled to maintain a sizable distance after halftime. Angel Rodriguez led the team with 21 points to go along with 10 assists for the double-double. And on a senior night in which Martavious Irving received his first start of the season, a group of his family members that drove all the way from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Manhattan watched the senior clock 36 minutes while nailing three of six 3s for 15 points on the night to go along with three rebounds and five assists. It was the first time they were ever able to see him play in Bramlage Coliseum.
The line going into the game was K-State by 22, and it certainly looked like the makings of a blow out in the early going. A monster slam by Rodney McGruder on the fast break following a steal by Rodriguez made the game 24-11 after 12 minutes of play, and it appeared as though the rout was on. In fact, the only thing TCU seemed capable of doing was hitting the occasional lucky shot while goading Wildcat players into bad fouls. Kansas State went into the locker room with a 15 point halftime lead, 42-27.
The second half was a different story, as TCU went on a 12-2 run to start the period. Kyan Anderson’s layup with 11 minutes left in the game made it a four point contest, 52-48. Anderson was electric on the night, exploding for 29 points on 66 percent shooting while also contributing five assists. The Wildcats gradually built their lead back from there, but TCU refused to ever go away over the course of the night.
The crowd was absolutely electric, providing a fitting send-off to Irving, McGruder, and Jordan Henriquez. While McGruder contributed 13 points of his own to go along with four rebounds, five assists, and a steal, Henriquez struggled to find his groove. He finished with one missed bucket and zero points, although he gave the team two offensive rebounds (five total) to slightly offset the three fouls he picked up over only 18 minutes. Freshman forward D.J. Johnson saw more playing time in the first half than fans are used to, and he demonstrated some solid raw talent, but raw’s the optimal word in that sentence.
Overall, the team didn’t seem to lack hustle. K-State didn’t take a defensive possession off, but they were often pulled out of place and did a subpar job maintaining their assignments. Provided deep open looks, the Horned Frogs connected on 6-13 threes. Fouls remained an issue, as K-State was whistled 19 times to only 14 for Texas Christian. The Wildcats only attempted seven free throws all night, while TCU had 22 opportunities. High foul totals were common during the Frank Martin era as well, but those teams played extremely physical defense and goaded their opponents into just as many personal fouls. The foul troubles have to be fixed if this team wants to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
The amazing stat you may have missed? Kansas State had 31 field goals on the night. The team had 27 assists. That’s a pass preceding 87 percent of all baskets. Bruce Weber’s motion offense is supposed to do this, but even he was probably to see that impressive statistic after the game. The Wildcats head to #13 Oklahoma State on Saturday to conclude the regular, with a share of the Big 12 title on the line.