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Wildcats win NIT regional

By Joel Jellison

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The Kansas State men’s basketball team won in huge rout fashion on Tuesday, beating Alabama-Huntsville 87-26 at Bramlage Coliseum to win the Midwest Regional of the NIT Tip-Off, locking up a spot in the semi-finals in New York City.

The Wildcats will open against Delaware, who upset Virginia 59-53, next Wednesday in Madison Square Garden.

But first the Wildcats had to beat a Chargers team that was coming off a huge win Monday, beating Tony Mitchell and North Texas. It got out of hand rather quickly, though.

The Wildcats came out on a 7-0 run before Alabama-Huntsville got on the board with 16:46 to play in the first half. K-State simply put together another run, getting 3s from Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving in the midst of a 12-0 run to go ahead 19-2.

K-State would add two other runs before the end of the half, going on a 17-2 run and a 11-0 run to lead 47-11 at the break.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said the Wildcats’ defense, in addition to the late Monday for Alabama-Huntsville, was a combination too tough for the Chargers to deal with.

“I think our pressure really hurt them,” he said. “For them to play the late game (Monday) night probably took a little bit of a toll, an emotional win, and then we jump on them right away.”

Alabama-Huntsville was dismal from the field in the first half, making just 4-of-28 shots, including a 1-of-15 mark from 3-point range. The Chargers were also outrebounded 27-11.

UAH coach Lennie Acuff said his team was simply gassed from the night before.

“We were just dead,” he said. “We spoke before the game, and I could just tell we didn’t have energy. Their guys are just faster and stronger at every position, and we had less than 24 hours to rest. I’m not using that as an excuse, but that is just the reality. All we can do from here is keep on keeping on.”

Angel Rodriguez led the Wildcats with 10 points in the first half, all coming in the first 13 minutes.

The second half, was simply more of the same. The Wildcats outscored Alabama-Huntsville 22-5 in the first 10 minutes of the half, with seven different players scoring points in the stretch.

Weber said his team jumped the Chargers defensively to start the second half, and once again, it was too much for Alabama-Huntsville to deal with.

“It was something we had talked about, to set the tone right away with them, especially on the defensive end,” he said. “We fought every pass, every handoff, just got them frustrated, even when they had open shots, now they’re out of rhythm.”

The Chargers second half included an 11-minute stretch without a field goal, and shooting that didn’t do much for their already low percentage from the field. UAH finished the game making 9-of-55 shots, including a 3-of-33 mark from 3-point range. They were led by three different players with four points.

“We ran into a buzz saw,” Acuff said. “K-State was better in all facets of the game. They out-shot us, out-defended us, and out-hustled us. It doesn’t help that we were 3-for-33 for 3-point shots. If shots don’t fall, everything else is hard. I have been coaching a very long time, and that was the best defensive team we have played.”

The Wildcats had a second straight game with a player scoring his career-high, as Shane Southwell led the team with 16 points. He scored 11 in the second half, along with making three of his four 3-point shots.

Southwell said he has been working on improving his shot.

“I’ve shot the ball bad all season, and even in exhibition,” he said. “Me and Martavious came in the morning to shoot, I knew one of us was going to shoot the ball well, I’m glad it was me, kind of. I’ve been working on my shot all summer, and it paid off”

The Wildcats’ depth took over in the second half, with 44 points coming off the bench. The 55.7 percent K-State shot from the field was the fifth best effort in school history. The Wildcats dominated the rebounding battle, 55-22.

The 61-point margin of victory ties the school record set in a 115-54 win over Delaware State Dec. 7, 1991. The 36-point halftime lead tied the school record set in an 82-54 win over Kennesaw State in 2006, when the team led 55-19 at the half.

Williams hurt

Kansas State forward Nino Williams was injured in the opening minute of the second half when he went down hard and walked off the court appearing to favor an arm.

Weber said after the game that Williams appeared to have suffered a stinger and probably could have re-entered the game at some point, but it was not needed.

Williams started the game for K-State for the third time this season, and finished with four points and two rebounds in nine minutes on the floor.

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