FORT WORTH, Texas — Adrian Diaz and Jordan Henriquez were a bit much for TCU to handle on Wednesday.
Couple their first-half performances with the stingy defense of Martavious Irving and another steady scoring night from Rodney McGruder, and it’s easy to see how No. 16 Kansas State dispatched the Horned Frogs, 67-54, for its seventh straight victory.
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) shook a slow start to the game and used a handful of runs in the first half and another few in the second half to make easy work of the Horned Frogs (9-8, 0-4), who are struggling to find their way in their first season in the league.
“It was a slow start, which you kind of expect in the middle of some pretty big games,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You come here and don’t have the crowd and the energy in the building — but this game is just as important as every other. You got to be ready to play. We came out lethargic.
“Our seniors did a good job of leading and giving us the energy we needed.”
Diaz’s and Henriquez’s impacts on the game came both in scoring and in rebounding. When the Wildcats had both of their near-7-footers on the floor, the Horned Frogs didn’t have an answer.
The Wildcats’ two big men combined for 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half and kept TCU from getting anything going on the inside.
Henriquez and Diaz did a good job staying out of foul trouble in the first 20 minutes too, committing just one foul between the two of them.
Henriquez finished the game with eight points and 10 boards, while Diaz had eight points and two rebounds.
Weber said he was pleased Diaz made the most of his opportunity to get on the court.
“I thought Shane (Southwell) struggled early, took a tough couple shots, got a foul, so we gave Nino (Williams) a shot, he took a tough shot, he got two fouls, so we put Adrian in,” he said. “AD took advantage of his opportunity and showed us that he could get some things done.”
Irving made a couple key stops in the game, forcing TCU into both a 10-second and a five-second violation. McGruder led the Wildcats in scoring with 21 points on 9 of 15 shooting.
The Wildcats’ slow first-half start had TCU leading 8-2 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Charles Hill Jr. and Kyan Anderson. It didn’t last long, though, as McGruder drilled a 3 at the 15:57 mark and then fueled an 8-0 run to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 13-10.
Henriquez and Diaz got the run going with a few free throws, followed by an alley-oop from Angel Rodriguez to McGruder. Will Spradling then capped the short surge with a 3-pointer of his own.
K-State didn’t stop there, as the Wildcats followed that with scoring barrage with an 11-2 run to go ahead 24-14. Henriquez scored to put the Wildcats up 15-12, and then TCU followed with a basket to cut the deficit back to one. Diaz scored on consecutive trips and then Rodriguez hit a 3. McGruder made the final bucket of the run on a jumpshot at the 5:54 mark.
Henriquez said Diaz, who has been limited in minutes this season, played a big game for the Wildcats, who remain tied with Oklahoma and Kansas atop the Big 12 standings.
“He gave us a big lift,” Henriquez said. “He came off the bench and gave us great energy, and that’s a big confidence builder for him.”
TCU made a short push to get back into the game late in the first half, getting as close as five with 3:57 left before the break. But again, it didn’t last as the Wildcats would outscore the Horned Frogs 12-4 from there — helped by back-to-back 3s from Irving and McGruder to give K-State a 39-25 halftime lead. McGruder scored 14 points in the first half.
Weber said his Wildcats, who shot 48 percent from the field in the game, played good enough defense to create some space at that point in the game. K-State held the Horned Frogs to just 37 percent from the field, including 3 of 10 from behind the arc.
“I thought we had a really good stretch of defense, led by Martavious Irving,” he said. “Jordan started cleaning up on the boards and Rodney made some shots.”
The Wildcats had the edge in the rebounding battle in the first half, grabbing 20 to TCU’s 12, including pulling down eight offensive boards. They ended the game with a 34-31 advantage, with TCU grabbing eight offensive boards in the final 20 minutes.
It’s the second straight game that K-State was outrebounded in the second half, causing Weber a little concern as the Wildcats prepare to face the Sooners on Saturday and then rival Kansas on Tuesday — both at Bramlage.
“We’ve been a pretty good rebounding team and it’s slipped a little as of late,” he said. “The biggest thing is when you help, you’re making your rotation — now the guards have got to come in and rebound. It’s something that we’ve got to talk about and get better at.”
On this night, though, TCU’s rebounding edge in the second half didn’t matter much, as the Wildcats took control for good early in the second half and never looked back. The Wildcats got 3s from McGruder and Spradling to push ahead 44-27, followed by a trey from Southwell, putting the Cats ahead 47-29 with 16:21 to play.
TCU made just four shots from the field in the first 11 minutes of the second half, collecting the majority of its points at the free throw line, and helping the Wildcats push their lead out to 58-40.
Southwell scored on consecutive trips down the floor and Henriquez made a free throw at the 7:29 mark to put the Wildcats up 63-40. McGruder and Thomas Gipson each added baskets to push the lead to 67-42 with 6:15 to play, and K-State put its bench out on the floor for the rest of the game, allowing TCU to end the game on a 12-0 run.