Cats look to get on track vs. Tigers

By Joel Jellison

Before Kansas State’s game at Gonzaga, coach Bruce Weber thought they were finally getting some of their guys into a rhythm, notably Rodney McGruder.

But on Saturday in Seattle, the Wildcats’ senior leader scored just four points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field and turned the ball over five times in a 68-52 loss to the Bulldogs.

McGruder entered the game having averaged 17 points per game in the Wildcats last three contests, but Weber said he just never had it.

“You want to leave him in, you hope he’s going to get going,” he said. “He was trying to do too much, he put his head down, got in a mess, had some turnovers, he just never got going for us.”

The Wildcats will look for McGruder to get it going again on Tuesday when they return home for the first time in 12 days to play Texas Southern at 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum.

It wasn’t just McGruder that struggled in the Gonzaga game though, as much of the team struggled.

The Wildcats, one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, were outrebounded by Gonzaga, 27-23. K-State finished with 18 turnovers. The Wildcats got just 10 points out of their post players.

“They played about as good a defense as I’ve ever seen a Gonzaga team play,” Weber said. “Their big guys just punked us inside. Those dudes are good.”

The Wildcats can’t just sit back on their heels and expect an easy win on Tuesday either. Texas Southern is 1-9 this season, but they tend to catch teams by surprise.

In a three-game stretch against ranked teams Colorado and San Diego State, and unranked Houston, the Tigers played two games that went to overtime and another that saw the winning team needing a late run to dispel Texas Southern.

The Tigers have gotten strong production out of their point guard in those games as Omar Strong averaged 27 points, including a 39-point performance against Colorado.

This week won’t just be about the Wildcats game against Texas Southern, of course, as K-State will face Florida on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

It will be the third matchup against a Top 25-ranked team this season, and the Wildcats will be seeking their first win in those games.

So far this season, the matchups against ranked teams have been similar. K-State’s game with Michigan in the NIT Tip-Off final saw the Wildcats keep it close in the first half, only to lost its handle on the game in the second half. Saturday’s loss to Gonzaga went the same way.

The Wildcats might be moving forward without starting forward Nino Williams, after he suffered an injury during the first half at Gonzaga. Weber did not know the status of the injury after the game, but said he was told Williams couldn’t play in the second half against the Bulldogs. Williams returned to the bench in the second half with his injured arm in a sling.

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