Irving comes up big off the bench

By Joel Jellison

NORMAN, Okla. — When Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling got in foul trouble again on Saturday, it put Kansas State in an “Oh, no,” situation.

The Wildcats were fortunate to have their bench pick them up in a win over Texas on Wednesday, but that Longhorns team pales in comparison to the Oklahoma squad that entered the game tied for second in the Big 12.

The answer came from senior Martavious Irving, who scored eight of his 10 points with Spradling and McGruder on the bench in the first half.

It was the highest scoring game for Irving since he scored 11 points against North Dakota in the first game of the season.

“He’s had a real nice run,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “When the seniors have played well, we’ve won. He hasn’t worried about starting, he’s just really kept pride in coming off the bench. He’s definitely been a major asset to us.”

Irving’s role for the Wildcats was somewhat in question before the season started. The Wildcats were expected to start Angel Rodriguez at point guard, Spradling was the player most knowledgeable about the motion offense, and by the time you get to the third guard spot, K-State has a preseason All-Big 12 player in McGruder.

But Weber has insisted the team has eight players that could start at anytime and Irving is one of those guys. And the senior has been content to do whatever is asked of him.

“You cant get caught up in starting, that will mentally mess you up,” Irving said. “You’ve got to be ready to play, whenever. We could have injuries, so people have got to be ready to play.

“Coach is just telling me to come off the bench with great energy, be aggressive and try to go after loose balls and not foul.”

Right after Spradling went to the bench on Saturday, Irving hit a 3-pointer, giving the Wildcats a 19-17 lead. After OU tied it up, Irving nailed another shot. The Sooners tied it again, and Irving hit a 3 that seemed to cripple the Sooners’ efforts.

Oklahoma scored on its next possession, but then didn’t score again for nearly 11 minutes.

Weber said Irving played a key role in an important stretch of the game.

“Tay comes in the first half, foul trouble again with Rod and Will, making big plays,” he said. “And we maintain the lead.”

The stigma surrounding Irving throughout his career is that he is more of a defensive player. But Spradling said Saturday showed that Irving can wear several different hats.

“He bring us energy off the bench and he’s a scorer too,” he said. “It’s not like he comes in and can only play on one side of the ball. He can do it all.”

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