Somehow, with Rodney McGruder on an off-night, No. 18 Kansas State still found a way to win against Texas.
And convincingly too.
The Wildcats (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) slammed the Longhorns 83-57 on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
McGruder, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, played just 15 minutes — two in the first half — and finished with seven points, but K-State didn’t really need him.
McGruder got in foul trouble in the first two minutes of the game, and the Wildcats turned in a 27-8 run without him to go ahead 31-13 with 3:59 left in the first half. K-State had pushed its lead to 38-19 by halftime, and the game was well in control from there on out.
Texas (9-11, 1-6) coach Rick Barnes said his team missed out on a great opportunity to control the game.
“I told the team at halftime we were down 19 points and arguably their best player was on the bench,” he said. “They get 33 points off turnovers and you just don’t give yourself a chance.”
With McGruder already out of the game, the Wildcats also lost Will Spradling in the first half. Spradling was struck in the head and broke his nose midway through the first half, and had to leave for the locker room.
But Omari Lawrence and Thomas Gipson stepped up in the absence of both, combining for 17 points in the first half.
K-State coach Bruce Weber said his team did the things it needed to do to push on without two of its starters.
“I don’t think you could ever predict with Rod out two minutes into the game, Will breaks his nose in the first half, and we’re up 19 at half,” he said. “It started out with defense. Without Rod and then Will late in the half, you’re not as good offensively in the half court, but we got so many turnovers, steals, deflections, we got some inside looks and moved the basketball. That’s why we were able to survive.”
Weber said he and his coaching staff were worried with the way Texas had been able to stay close in games with some of the better teams in the country. So worried, in fact, that they held a special meeting to talk about the Longhorns a little more on Wednesday afternoon.
Barnes said he told his team the Wildcats would be desperate to right the ship after losing to Kansas and Iowa State in uncharacteristic ways, getting outrebounded in both games. And he told them the game would be decided in the first five minutes.
He was right too, as the Wildcats led Texas just 9-7 after the first five minutes, and grasped the energy for the rest of the half. K-State went on a 22-4 run from there, closing Texas out of the game before it even reached halftime.
The run featured a play from Shane Southwell that Weber said thrust energy into his team, as Southwell stole the ball away, made a rare dive to the floor, and dished the ball to Spradling for a layup.
“When Shane dove on the floor, that might have been a miracle,” Weber said. “He’ll be talking about that for about five years. I think he’s looked at his stats, he is our leading defensive rebounder, but offensively he hasn’t got many and you’ve got to give us something.”
Gipson led the Wildcats with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Lawrence had 12 points and Angel Rodriguez finished with 11 points and eight assists. Sheldon McClellan led the Longhorns with 15 points, while Jaylen Bond had 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Wildcats finally got back to winning the rebounding battle, edging Texas 34-30 including 14-9 on offensive rebounds.
The Longhorns made a few small runs at the Wildcats’ lead in the second half, but K-State was always there to push right back. Texas pulled within 13 points with 12 minutes to play in the second half, but the Wildcats turned in a quick 14-2 run to put the game away.
Weber said the team followed the gameplan, and responded to his pregame message.
“I wrote ‘play hard for 40 minutes,’ and they did that,” he said. “That’s what was probably lacking against Iowa State. If we do that, we’re in different shape.”
Spradling to be evaluated today
Weber said trainers were going to take Spradling to be further evaluated on Thursday morning, to determine what treatment needs to be taken.
“They’re going to get him in, and see if they have to straighten it or whatever,” Weber said of Spradling’s nose. “It’s messed up right now. You’ve got to give Will some credit, the big thing was stopping the bleeding, once they did that they said he could play if he could deal with it, and he wanted to play.”
Spradling logged an extra 10 minutes in the second half and finished with five points and four rebounds.