KSU’s bench stepped up against ’Bama

By Cole Manbeck

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Through the thick and the thin, the good and the ugly, Kansas State is 7-1. The Wildcats already have two quality wins under their belt, an RPI of No. 33 in the country, and are one defensive stop away from being undefeated and likely ranked in the top 25. So while the Wildcats’ record isn’t perfect, their resume still speaks for itself.

K-State added a nice reference to its postseason resume on Saturday night, defeating 23rd-ranked Alabama 71-58 at the Sprint Center.

“We have a win at Virginia Tech and this win here,” K-State coach Frank Martin said after Saturday’s game. “We may not be perfect, but we are not taking a backseat to anybody either.”

K-State stuck together against the Crimson Tide on Saturday. Following a 2-of-17 shooting effort to open the game, the Wildcats stared adverse conditions down and had an answer, connecting on 20 of their next 33 shots. They shot 63 percent in the second half and forced Alabama into 18 turnovers overall.

“You look at the numbers — they were 63 percent from the field in the second half, turned us over 18 times in the game and also outrebounded us,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “If you play against a team of a caliber like Kansas State on the road, those numbers are hard to overcome. I give them credit. They did a great job.”

The Wildcats had some struggles early on against Alabama’s zone defense, misfiring on seven of their first eight attempts from beyond the arc. With three of its top players in foul trouble and on the bench for significant minutes in the opening period, K-State showed its depth the coaching staff spoke of prior to the season.

Jordan Henriquez, who played just three minutes in K-State’s previous game against North Florida, came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting against Alabama. The junior 7-footer also collected eight rebounds.

Angel Rodriguez, the Wildcats’ freshman point guard, recorded seven assists to go along with 13 points. It was the combination of Rodriguez and Henriquez that sparked K-State on the offensive end.

Rodriguez connected with Henriquez three different times for baskets in the final seven minutes of the first half, including a pair of alley-oops.

“Both of them have refocused,” Martin said. “They have been two of our better players in practice this week and I think that carried over to (Saturday’s) game.”

Rodriguez penetrated Alabama’s zone defense to help ignite the K-State charge, turning a seven-point deficit in the first half into a 16-point lead in the final period.

“We got their zone really spread out and then Angel drove it and Jordan did what we talked about — which is if that middle guy comes up when we drove the ball, then the back-side is going to be open,” Martin said. “Angel made some good reads and Jordan was able to put the ball in the basket.”

The two combined for 30 points as K-State’s bench outscored Alabama’s 35-8.

“I thought their bench gave them a big lift at the end of the first half,” Grant said. “They had some guys in foul trouble, and Angel Rodriguez came in and did a great job of running their team with six assists in the half. Henriquez did a great job as well. I thought those guys really gave them a lift. If you look at their numbers, they had 35 points off their bench. Those are outstanding numbers.”

Those numbers led to another K-State victory, which at the end of the year could prove to be a significant victory.

“These guys encourage me because they are not perfect and neither am I, but they never come in and not try,” Martin said. “Whenever you have that kind of attitude — as a coach, you have to be excited about your team.”

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