HONOLULU — Kansas State crushed Southern Illinois in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic, defeating the Salukis 83-58 Thursday afternoon in front of 6,751 fans at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Wildcats improved to 8-1 on the season and will take on UTEP in the semifinals today at 4 p.m. in a game televised on ESPNU. The Miners defeated Clemson 61-48 Thursday morning to improve their record to 5-5 on the season.
K-State jumped all over Southern Illinois (3-6) in the first half, building a 48-29 halftime lead. The 48 points in the first half were a Diamond Head Classic record.
The Wildcats made seven of their first eight shots to start the game. K-State, which entered the tournament shooting just 27.5 percent from 3-point range, made 9-of-14 from beyond the arc Thursday, shooting the highest percentage from long distance in a game since 2009.
The Wildcats made 54 percent of their shots in the win, and made 24-of-32 from the free throw line.
K-State became the first team to score more than 65 points against the defensive-minded Salukis, who entered the game allowing just 58.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting, including 31.3 percent from 3-point range. The 83 points were the second-most this season and the most since scoring 92 against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.
K-State’s Angel Rodriguez built off his strong game against Alabama by scoring 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The freshman point guard, who had made just four 3-pointers on the season, went 5-of-6 from behind the arc on Thursday — the most 3s a Wildcat player has hit in a game this season.
K-State’s bench continued its strong play, outscoring its starters 48-35 — including solid play from senior forward Jamar Samuels.
Samuels, who just got to Hawaii on Wednesday afternoon after attending his grandmother’s funeral on Tuesday, scored 14 points, including a 10-of-12 effort from the free throw line. Samuels had missed the three practices prior to the game since leaving on Sunday morning.
Adrian Diaz added nine points and Jeremy Jones chipped in with eight.
Rodney McGruder scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds and Jordan Henriquez had 10 points and eight boards.
In what was expected to be a defensive struggle, K-State made it a one-sided affair early in perhaps the Wildcats’ best first half of the season. The 48 points on the first half came on 61.9 percent shooting, including 66.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Wildcats team used an early 9-2 run to push the lead to double figures at 22-12 by the 11:23 mark. After SIU cut it to eight points with 6:22 left, K-State used a quick 11-4 run capped by a Rodriguez 3-pointer to advance the lead to 15. McGruder and Rodriguez led the way with 11 points in the first half.
The Wildcats were uncharacteristic to start the second half, missing six of their first seven shots, as the Salukis cut the lead to 53-40 with 13:32 remaining in the game. However, that would be the closest they would get the rest of the way, as the Wildcats pushed the lead back out to 20 and eventually by as many as 31 at 79-48 with 4:28 to go.
Southern Illinois shot 29.5 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from 3-point distance. K-State outrebounded the Salukis 44-31.
The Salukis were led by the 10-point efforts of reserves Jeff Early and Justin Bocot. Leading scorer Mamadou Seck, who was hampered by foul problems for much of the day, finished with just five points in 14 minutes.
It’s the third straight season K-State has started the season 8-1.