Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving returned to the Kansas State lineup on Saturday afternoon, more than a week since the two guards last played for the Wildcats in the upset of then-No. 8 Florida in Kansas City.
K-State won the game against Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum with flair 73-67.
The absence of Rodriguez, a sophomore point guard, and Irving, a senior guard, was noticeable against UMKC and South Dakota. K-State did win those games by double-digits, but they were won in sloppy fashion against far lesser opponents.
With both back on the floor against No. 22 Oklahoma State — a team that lost by just a point to 10th-ranked Gonzaga on New Year’s Eve — the Wildcats looked more like the team who fought off the Gators.
Although both were clearly still hobbled by injuries, their presence certainly helped K-State click.
Rodriguez totaled a game-high eight assists to just three turnovers. He still had trouble finding his shot — he was 0-for-5 from the field and his three points of the afternoon were from the free throw line — but he also grabbed two steals and was on the floor for 25 minutes.
Irving also struggled from the field, but he did connect on a step-back 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Cowboys’ bench with 10:22 left to play in the first half that put KSU back in the lead 17-14. He also provided four rebounds and three assists to two turnovers in 21 minutes of play.
“It is so different offensively,” Wildcats head coach Bruce Webber said. “They did such a good job against Florida.
“They were still not (100 percent). You could tell because of Angel’s legs. (But he) will get better and better. Martavious actually made more progress in the week than Angel did. He could not move (his knee) a week ago.”
Senior guard Rodney McGruder, who went on a tear in the second half against OSU and scored 26 of his game-high 28 points, said the return of Rodriquez and Irving made a significant difference.
“Angel did a great job of facilitating,” McGruder said. “They just slow the game down. It was kind of sloppy, I would say, without them in those last two games that we played.”
McGruder admitted having them on the floor is calming.
“It is,” he said, “just knowing they are going to run the show and take care of the ball… things like that.”
Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was high on Rodriguez following the game.
“He’s a big part of their team,” Ford said. “We knew he was going to play. And he’s big for them and not just in scoring, and we told our guys that.
“I really like his game. I think he’s really good for this basketball team. He doesn’t force things. He doesn’t take bad shots. He knows he’s playing with McGruder. He gets that. If he continues to handle the ball, have eight assists to three turnovers, then they’re going to win. I’ve liked him since last year.”