COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If the nickname doesn’t already exist, Kansas State might want to think about calling its leading scorer “big-shot Rodney.”
On second thought, it’s really not that clever at all, but still…
For the second straight road game, an opponent made a late run against the Wildcats to pull within three, only to see Rodney McGruder connect on daggers from behind the 3-point line in both games to help push K-State to victories.
In K-State’s 76-70 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday, McGruder hit a 3 from the baseline with 2:26 remaining to give his team a six-point lead. A week before against then No. 3-Missouri, McGruder hit a 3 to end the Tigers’ 15-2 run late in the second half.
“He’s keeping me calm,” Frank Martin said with a smile following the win over the Aggies.
And it’s not just because of his ability to score the basketball, play defense or rebound, but also because of the leadership he’s bringing to the team right now.
For example, K-State built an 11-4 lead early in Tuesday’s contest, but the Aggies answered with a 14-0 run to take an 18-11 lead. That’s when McGruder stepped in.
“We’ve matured as a team,” Martin said. “We were able to manage that moment and not lose our composure. (McGruder) had a lot to do with that. He’s the one that kept those guys together in those timeouts and made them understand that ‘hey we’re here for 40 minutes, we’re not here for the first media timeout.’”
So what else did McGruder say?
“I just told my teammates that basketball is a game of runs,” said the junior guard, who scored a game-high 26 points on 6-of-12 shooting. “Everybody goes on a run, we just have to keep our composure and stay the course. That’s what we did.”
McGruder scored 19 first-half points on 4-of-4 shooting from 3. Already a focal point for A&M entering the game, the Aggies really keyed in on McGruder in the second half, holding the 6-foot-4 junior without a field goal for the first 17:34 of the final period. But the Aggies couldn’t stop him when it mattered most, something that’s becoming a common trend for K-State’s opponents. McGruder came off a screen along the baseline and hit a 3 with 2:26 left to give K-State a 69-63 cushion, and once again, stepped up when his team needed him most.
“Hats off to him for jumping up and making a big-time shot in a big-time moment,” Martin said. “This was a good win for us.”