On a night full of bright spots for the Kansas State men’s basketball team, the hot shooting of Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling made the Wildcats’ second game of the season look more like a scrimmage.
It’s hard to tell if Division II Alabama-Huntsville, 78-75 winners over North Texas in the nightcap, figures to be more of a challenge tonight, even if the Cats cool off from long range.
K-State’s 42 percent from 3 was more than its overall field-goal percentage of 40, with Rodriguez and Spradling leading the way, scoring 19 and 14 points, respectively. Each finished the night 4-of-6 from beyond the arc despite playing a combined 47 minutes as K-State cruised against a young Lamar team that turned the ball over 26 times.
To be fair, Lamar never had a chance against a K-State team that was bigger, more athletic and more sound defensively. Pat Knight inherited a decent team last year laden with seniors — this year he has six freshmen and returns just one starter with a rebuilding job in front of him.
But K-State’s guards continually knocking down 3s in bunches ended this game before it ever got started. A frustrated Knight had to just sit and watch as his team allowed K-State to stake a 15-point lead before the Cardinals got its first point on a free throw after the first media timeout.
With a 28-point halftime lead, the Wildcats’ reserves got the bulk of the second-half minutes and Lamar shot 57 percent to keep the score reasonable.
For Rodriguez, his 19 points were two more than his previous career high of 17 last season. Though it’s a small sample size, the sophomore has been a catalyst for the K-State offense through two games. Rodriguez said he’s been working on improving his shot.
“I worked on it all summer so it doesn’t surprise me because I put in the work,” he said. “I have the confidence to take good shots.”
The team may rely on him to score in bunches, at least as long as Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder continue their slow starts.
“My mentality is to do whatever helps the team,” Rodriguez said. “If it happens to be to score, I do it. I try to do it well. Like coach always says, try to make everyone else happy and if you get a chance to score, score.”
For Spradling, the hot-and-cold shooter is looking not to force things, but let the offensive side of the game come to him.
“It was definitely a defensive based half and that’s what we want to do, is be a defensive team first and let offense come to us,” Spradling said. “That’s what happened in the first half. In the second half, we took quick shots which made it harder for our defense to set up, and it’s always a lot harder in transition.”
Nino Williams, a surprise starter for K-State through two games this year, thinks the team’s shooters will only keep improving.
“I think those guys that haven’t shot it well, they’ve been in the gym shooting,” he said. “Now they’re taking those same shots and tonight they found their touch.”
With only a Division-II team standing in the way, a trip to New York City for the NIT semifinals seems likely for K-State, especially if the team continues shooting at its current clip. Add in the cancellation of the expected matchup with former recruit Tony Mitchell and North Texas, and tonight K-State may look like its scrimmaging for the second night in a row.