Traveling out to LA, the Wildcats shined at the Staples Center in the all-Kansas match up of K-State vs. Wichita State. The
The Shockers jumped out to an early lead, enjoying the momentum of having knocked off #1 seed Gonzaga and the crowd support afforded the underdog. However, Will Spradling came alive in the second half and looked healthy for the first time since suffering a chest injury in February. Spradling was able to play 28 minutes, didn’t struggle to transition back to defense, and dropped in 17 points for the Wildcats. Jordan Henriquez only contributed two points and missed three free throws, but had a monster defensive game with 10 rebounds and five blocks. Kansas State advanced to the Elite Eight in a defensive battle, 60-55.
Next up was Ohio State, who the majority of ESPN’s brackets picked to advance to the Final Four out of the West. To Aaron Craft, this was the game that destroyed his dreams of being drafted this summer. Although the nation fell in love with Craft as a freshman, his stock had fallen in recent games despite Ohio State’s success in the Big 10. Yet when Thad Matta made the decision to have “defensive specialist” Aaron Craft lock down Rodney McGruder, McGruder demonstrated why he is a first round talent.
Early foul trouble forced Angel Rodriguez to spend ten minutes of the first half on the bench, and McGruder essentially decided that the offense would run through him. He compiled eight assists in addition to his 21 points, collected three offensive rebounds from three ill-advised shots by Shane Southwell, turned in one of the most complete games of his career.
Buckeyes’ leading scorer Deshaun Thomas had accumulated 20 points at halftime as Bruce Weber threw the kitchen sink at him and still couldn’t find a way to slow him down. The surprising second-half antidote was Adrian Diaz, who was averaging seven minutes and three points per game (and even these stats were inflated by early season wins over lower level competition). Diaz played 19 of the final 20 minutes, limited Thomas to only five second half points on seven shots, and contributed eight points in his best game for the Wildcats this season. The expected defensive struggle turned into a shoot-out as K-State rallied from down six at halftime to a 76-74 win and a spot in the Final Four.
Join us tomorrow as we recap the exciting match against Louisville in Atlanta. And in case you haven’t watched ESPN for more than five seconds recently, Louisville’s Kevin Ware broke his leg against Duke. Because that’s literally all ESPN has covered recently.
So what do you think? With Gonzaga out of the way, did K-State have a reasonable chance at the Final Four if only it could have shown up for the first half against La Salle?