Just days before they’re scheduled to play in New York City, the Kansas State men’s basketball team won in another rout on Sunday.
Hosting a North Florida team they nearly lost to a year ago, the Wildcats handled business this time around in a 74-55 win at Bramlage Coliseum.
Despite a 19-point win, and the Wildcats fourth double-digit win this season, K-State coach Bruce Weber said his team should learn from its performance on Sunday after poor preparation during the week.
He also said the team might have been looking ahead toward its Thanksgiving week trip to New York City and Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
“You won, and you’re happy you won, but at the same time you want to play and make improvements,” he said. “It was a great learning lesson and teaching lesson for us. We didn’t practice well on Wednesday and Thursday. (It’s) a good reminder to them and hopefully practice gets better.”
Kansas State opened the game on a 12-4 run with six points each from Rodney McGruder and Nino Williams, and led 16-6 with 13:23 to play in the first half. A 7-2 run helped the Wildcats go-ahead 23-9 as the game went under 10 minutes to play in the half.
North Florida made a run back into the contest from that point, outscoring Kansas State 6-2 to pull within 10 points at 25-15.
The Wildcats got out ahead 30-15 with a monstrous put-back dunk from Adrian Diaz, but North Florida got back-to-back 3-pointers from Jerron Granberry and David Jeune to cut the lead to 30-21.
The Ospreys looked for shots from long range from that point on, but didn’t make another until the final 20 seconds of the half. They were 3-of-11 from 3-point range in the half.
McGruder hit a 3-pointer, the only of the half for the Wildcats, to push the lead out to 12 points with 4:31 to play. Gipson scored five points in a 7-2 run for Kansas State before the end of the half.
McGruder led all scorers with nine points in the first half and Kansas State led 40-26 at halftime.
The Wildcats took over from there.
With a 9-0 run led by five points from McGruder, Kansas State pushed its lead to 49-28 in the opening minutes of the second half.
North Florida got the game back down to a 51-33 deficit, but Will Spradling hit a 3-pointer with 14:25 left, and Adrian Diaz followed with a pair of free throws to push the lead out to 23 points.
After the Ospreys cut the lead to 20, the Wildcats blew the game open with an 11-1 run sparked by a big dunk from Jordan Henriquez, and a 3-pointer from Omari Lawrence.
With the Kansas State starters on the bench, North Florida used a late 12-1 run to cut the deficit to less than 20 points. Neither team scored in the final three minutes of the game.
McGruder had 16 points and three rebounds to lead the Wildcats.
Weber said McGruder, who scored his biggest output of the season, got into a rhythm shooting at a time of the season that could be a difficult task for the Wildcats’ players.
“(Rodney) got going a little bit, and it’s hard right now for some of them to get into a rhythm because we are rotating, trying to get everybody some minutes,” he said.
Beau Beech led North Florida with 15 points and seven rebounds.
K-State won the battle on the boards 54-31, including 29-13 on offensive rebounds. North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said the disparity played a big role in the outcome.
“This is our third straight year playing Kansas State and obviously last year we were one possession away from upsetting Kansas State and beating them here,” he said. “We had a lot of our same guys back, but when you give up as many rebounds as you scored points then it’s not going to be a good night.”
Weber said rebounding had been the Wildcats’ strength through the first four games of the season. But he said they have been focusing on being better at rebounding on the defensive end.
“I know it was a pretty good strength last year, especially on the offensive end,” Weber said. “When you studied the stats, they did not do as good of a job of blocking out on the defensive end and allowed too many offensive rebounds last year. So I think we have worked to correct that this year.”
The Wildcats got 38 points from their bench, including a 12-point, nine-rebound performance out of Thomas Gipson.
Weber said Gipson provided a spark off the bench.
“I thought Thomas gave us a nice lift,” he said. “He actually made a couple shots in the first half when we really needed it.”
North Florida played the game without starting forward Andy Diaz, brother of K-State’s Adrian Diaz. North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said Diaz was injured on Friday.