Rodney McGruder was last week’s Big 12 Player of the Week.
Unfortunately for 11th-ranked Kansas State, he seemed quite average on Tuesday night against rival Kansas.
McGruder had been on a tear through the first four Big 12 games this season, averaging a league-best 21.5 points per game. But the Jayhawks clamped down on McGruder Tuesday night, holding the senior to just 13 points in the Wildcats’ 59-55 loss to KU at Bramlage Coliseum, snapping K-State’s eight-game win streak.
Kansas guard Travis Releford drew the tough assignment and he didn’t disappoint, helping the third-ranked Jayhawks (17-1, 5-0) stay perfect in the Big 12.
“I looked at film and shout out to our assistant coaches for doing a great job at scouting on what they like to do and their offensive tendencies,” said Releford, who scored a team-high 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting. “Just looking at that and knowing Rodney wanted to tight curl on a lot of screens.”
Releford chased McGruder around the court for much of the game, limiting the Wildcats’ go-to guy to just two points in the first half on a fast break dunk just before halftime
“Starting off the first half I thought I did real well at making him uncomfortable and not letting him get easy looks at the rim,” Releford said.
McGruder was 3 of 8 from the field in the second half and scored 11 points, but never was able to push the Wildcats (15-3, 4-1) over the hump. K-State’s only lead was 19-18 late in the first half, but trailed the entire second half, never getting closer than three points and trailing by as many 10.
“The second half my teammates told me they were going to continue to help me to let me get through down screens,” Releford said. “I just continued doing whatever the team needed me to do on the defensive end because we knew he was going to be the guy that they were going to on offense.”
KU coach Bill Self had nothing but praise for his fifth-year senior.
“I thought Travis played unbelievable — one of his better games he’s played for us,” he said.
McGruder was 4 of 12 from the field overall, but nine of his attempts were 3-pointers and he only got to the free throw line twice. As a team, the Wildcats were 9 of 30 from behind the arc.
“Travis did a great job of keeping him out of the lane,” Self said, “and still getting out to him on the 3-point line.”
K-State coach Bruce Weber said something has to change going forward for the Wildcats, who travel to Iowa State on Saturday.
“Rod got going in the second half, but we just have to find ways to get him open not just for 3s, but other scoring opportunities,” he said.