Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Angel Rodriquez finished the first half on the bench with two personal fouls, relegated to watching his team work its way to a six point halftime lead. He quickly made up for lost time by knocking down a three on his team’s first possession of the first half to help power Kansas State to a 66-49 victory. The shot made K-State seven of ten for threes, cleaning up on open shots allowed by Rick Barnes who maintained 2-3 zone throughout the night. However, Rodriguez quickly returned to the bench after picking up his third foul only two and a half minutes into the half.
Texas started the game leading 7-1, but K-State went on a 14-2 run to go up 15-9 just six and a half minutes into the game, building a game that was never relinquished. Bruce Weber’s treatment of Angel Rodriguez was largely an enigma. Rodriguez did a little bit of everything, scoring and forcing turnovers while on the court, but saw much more bench time than he’s become accustomed to this season. Although he had fouls early in the game, Rodriguez finished with just three. He still finished second on the team with 13 points, along with three rebounds, five assists, and one steal.
Texas Longhorns G Myck Kabongo (12) dribbles the ball as Kansas State Wildcats F D.J. Johnson (50) defends in the second half during the second round of the Big 12 tournament. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez both started the game despite injuries, but neither were able to contribute much offensively. Henriquez began the second half on the bench, showing the strains of a tight back while spending much of the game on a stationary bike attempting to get lose. Both players made one out of four shots, Spradling a three and Henriquez a two, to finish with a combined five points.
With Rodriguez in foul trouble and Spradling still injured and suffering from a lack of conditioning, K-State’s bench continued to step up as it has all season. Martavious Irving continued his late season renaissance by pouring in six points while collecting five rebounds. Additionally, D.J. Johnson played his best game of the year. The freshman forward finished 4/4 shooting for eight points to go along with seven rebounds, tying McGruder for most rebounds among all players in the game while helping to fill in for Henriquez. The St. Louis native is averaging 2.2 points and 2.5 rebounds on the year.
The Wildcats blistered Texas from behind the arc, and at one point were seven of ten in three point shooting. The team cooled eventually, hitting nine of 21 on the night, but still finished at 41.5 percent from downtown as Rick Barnes refused to scrap a 2-3 zone that encouraged K-State’s sharpshooters to pull the trigger from long range. (Side note: this is another example of why Rick Barnes is an awful coach. K-State is somewhat offensively challenged inside – although its guards do like to drive on the basket. Still, when you have a height advantage and the other team is on fire, you should probably man up at some point).
Kansas State is now 26-6 on the season, and looks determined to make a run at a three seed. Texas finishes the year with a losing record – 16-17 – and will likely be left out of the postseason. The Jug fails to find tears to weep. The Wildcats now await the winner of Baylor-Oklahoma State tonight. A win there sends them to the conference championship game Saturday. Should they win that game, the Wildcats will have finished 28-6 on the season while laying claim to both the Big 12’s regular season and tournament championships. Should they pull off this feat by way of victory over KU, would the Wildcats deserve a two seed?