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Showdown in Stillwater set for Cats

By Joshua Kinder

One game.

That’s all that stands now between Kansas State and its first conference championship since 1977.

The Wildcats disposed of TCU Tuesday night, closing out their home slate with an ugly 79-68 victory on senior night at Bramlage Coliseum — setting up a clash with Oklahoma State this weekend in Stillwater, Okla.

A win against the Cowboys would secure ninth-ranked K-State of at least a share of the Big 12 title with rival Kansas. A K-State win and a Jayhawks loss at Baylor Saturday night would give the title outright to the Wildcats.

“It feels good, but these next two days of practice, we really have to get back to it and back to our style of basketball,” said K-State senior Rodney McGruder, who had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds Tuesday. “This wasn’t one of our most impressive wins, but we came out with a W. Now, we have to get back to our brand of basketball and try to win the Big 12 regular season title.”

For weeks now, Saturday’s showdown at No. 13 Oklahoma State has been circled as the key end game for the Wildcats, fittingly closing the regular season against the same team K-State (25-5, 14-3 Big 12) defeated to open conference play.

“It’s going to be a tough game, but if you’re trying to win a championship, the road is going to be tough,” said K-State point guard Angel Rodriguez, who had a team-high 21 points and 10 assists against the Horned Frogs. “We look forward to the challenge and the know the atmosphere is going to be pumped. We’ll be ready.

“We’ve talked about winning the Big 12 and now the day is here. We’ve worked too hard to not give everything we have to win this.”

A win Saturday would also give the K-State senior class an even 100 for its four-year career. It’s already the winningest class in school history and the fourth straight to win at least 90 games. However, none of those other classes under former head coach Frank Martin can say it won a championship.

“We’ve worked really hard to bring a championship here,” said senior guard Martavious Irving, who scored 15 points in his first start of the season Tuesday. “We’re tired of KU dominating. We want to make some changes around here.”

Tuesday was supposed to be a tune-up for the Wildcats, and for the most part, it was. But the Horned Frogs (10-20, 1-16) scored a Big 12-high in points and K-State only led by four points midway through the second half. It wasn’t until Rodriguez, McGruder and Irving connected three straight 3-pointers inside the final 7 minutes that K-State was comfortably in the lead for good.

It wasn’t pretty, but K-State coach Bruce Weber will take it.

“We are going to have a bad night now and then, but we have to move forward,” he said. “We can’t dwell on it, we have an off day (today) to get everyone healthy and then we have practice on Thursday. We’ll prep on Friday and go to Stillwater and compete for a Big 12 championship.”

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