When Will Spradling was taking shots in pregame on Saturday, the sophomore guard had a feeling it would be a good day.
“I shot it real well in warm-ups,” Spradling said. “I can remember going through warm-ups and only missing like one 3 so I felt real good before the game. I think that helped me a lot going into it.”
Spradling scored a career-high 19 points, making 4-of-5 from 3 to help lead Kansas State to a 64-53 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum.
This was an important game for Spradling, who has a track record of being a solid shooter. But the last couple of weeks have been a forgettable stretch for the Kansas City native. Over the previous four games leading up to Saturday, Spradling was 5-of-26 (19 percent) from the floor, 1-of-13 (7 percent) from 3 and was averaging just five points per game.
Like any good shooter, he’d hit a slump, but the only way to break free from those struggles was to shoot his way out of it, and that’s just what he did. He scored 12 of K-State’s 24 points in the first half, including making a four-point play after being fouled on a made 3 from the wing, his first basket of the game.
“We’re down 10 and the guy that hadn’t made a shot in a month jumps up and scores a four-point play,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “That’s the courage you look for as a coach. When you’re in a difficult moment your guys step and make plays to help you win. When you see that it makes you understand why you should be proud everyday you get to coach these guys. That’s what it’s all about.”
During his struggles, Spradling had been long on the majority of his attempts, which he said occurs when he’s not focusing on the rim.
“If I’m shooting long but on target that means that my follow-through and everything is right,” he said prior to Saturday’s game. “But I’m not looking at the rim when I’m shooting and that’s causing it not to go in.”
So over the past week, the sophomore spent a significant amount of time in the gym getting shots up.
Martin said he left Spradling alone during his shooting slump, wanting him to get through it on his own.
“People have to figure their way through stuff,” he said. “My job is to get them through the difficult moments but not to micromanage how they handle every situation. When I see them struggling a little bit then it’s my job to help them understand the good rather than focus in on the bad.
“My thing to him was you’ve got to shoot the ball. I don’t care if you miss. Obviously I’d like you to make shots, but if they’re open they’re supposed to shoot. But when you’re open and you don’t shoot you’re hindering your team. If it’s a shot that you can make and you’re open, shoot it. He stepped up like a champ and took care of business today.”
It was a big day for the Wildcats’ two point guards. Angel Rodriguez added 13 points, all of which came in the second half, while the freshman point guard dished out four assists and grabbed five rebounds.
“(Rodriguez) said something to me after the game,” Spradling recalled. “He said ‘thanks for picking me up in the first half.’ I’d like to thank him for picking us up in the second half because he really picked us up and really stopped their run there at the end of the game.”
Spradling said he’s going to get back to playing the way he’s capable of, and that means when he’s open, he’s going to shoot the ball with confidence.
“I’m going to keep the confidence and go into practice (today) feeling good about myself and keep playing aggressive,” he said. “I’m not going to relax like I’ve been the last couple of games I’ve not been playing well and play passive.”
• K-State is now 10-0 all-time when playing at home against the Aggies. The Wildcats lead the series 16-7.
• The Wildcats improved to 9-0 on the season when holding an opponent to less than 60 points.
• Spradling and Rodriguez were the only two Wildcats in double figures scoring.
• Rodney McGruder, who is battling a toe injury, struggled on the offensive end of the floor, scoring just five points on 1-of-9 shooting.