Kansas State's Rodney McGruder (22) gets a shot off over Southern Miss defender Jonathan Mills during the first half of an East Regional NCAA tournament second-round college basketball game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 15, 2012. McGruder was the leading scorer in a 70-64 Kansas State win. ( AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Kansas State (3-0) will conclude its six-game homestand to start the season on Sunday, as the Wildcats play host to North Florida (1-2) at Bramlage Coliseum on 1-7 FA Appreciation Day at 1 p.m. The athletics department will celebrate the basketball team’s relationship with the Fort Riley regiment with discounted tickets and free parking for military personnel as well as other promotions. The game will be available on the entire FOX Sports Midwest footprint (except Indiana) as well as nationally on FOX College Sports and K-StateHD.TV. The squad, which is 3-0 for the 10th consecutive year, will spend its Thanksgiving Break in the Big Apple after dispatching of Lamar (79-55) and Alabama-Hunstville (87-26) to capture the NIT Season Tip-Off Midwest Regional title and a spot in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21 vs. Delaware (2-1) at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. K-State has been stellar on both ends of the floor this year, averaging 83.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field, while holding its opponents to just 44.3 points on 29.7 percent shooting through three games. Nine players are averaging at least five points per game, including two in double figures, and nine are also posting at least three rebounds per contest. The team is averaging 37.7 points from the bench, 33.3 points in the paint and 21.7 points off turnovers. The Wildcats enters Sunday’s game with a 38-game non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum and wins in 34 of their last 35 home games in November.
North Florida (1-2) is a very experienced team with eight returning lettermen, including four starters, from a squad that posted a 16-16 overall record and a fourth-place finish (10-8) in the Atlantic Sun in 2011-12. The Ospreys have dropped back-to-back games on the road at No. 17 Memphis (81-66) and Savannah State (54-47) after opening the season with a 79-65 win over Edward Waters on Nov. 10. Senior guard Parker Smith has been stellar through three games, averaging a team-best 17 points on 50 percent shooting, including 60 percent from 3-point range. An All-Atlantic Sun second team selection, Smith is nearing the 1,000-point milestone (925) at UNF, which includes a 25-point outburst vs. the Wildcats in 2010. Fellow senior Jerron Grandberry also averages in double figures (10.7 ppg.), while senior point guard Will Wilson paces the squad in both assists (7.7 apg.) and minutes (31.3 mpg.). Head coach Matthew Driscoll, a former assistant at Baylor, is 45-55 in his fourth season at UNF, including a 0-2 mark vs. K-State. Sunday’s match-up marks the third straight year that the two teams have met with K-State winning 100-76 on Dec. 31, 2010 and 79-68 in overtime on Dec. 11, 2011. The Wildcats are 6-0 all-time vs. teams from the Atlantic Sun.
Last Meeting: K-State 79, North Florida 68 – Overtime (Dec. 11, 2011)
K-State survived an upset bid of North Florida in its last meeting on Dec. 11, 2011, as the Wildcats used a strong effort in overtime to post a 79-68 win. Down by seven points at halftime, the Ospreys got a lay-up from Jimmy Williams with less than four seconds left in the second half to send the game into an extra period at 60-all. The squad shot a stellar 57.7 percent from the field, including 57.1 percent from 3-point range, in the second half. However, North Florida shot just 28.6 percent in overtime, as K-State went 11-of-12 from the free throw line to clinch the win. Four Wildcats scored in double figures led by Thomas Gipson’s career-high 23 points and 12 rebounds. Parker Smith and Williams had 13 points each for the Ospreys, while Jerron Granberry added 12 points. The teams combined for 40 turnovers with each squad scoring 23 points off those miscues.
Brother vs. Brother
Sunday’s game will pit brother against brother, as K-State sophomore forward Adrian Diaz will play his older brother, Andy, a senior forward for North Florida for the second time. The younger Diaz got the best of the first meeting with eight points on 4-of-5 field goals and four rebounds in 16 minutes, while the older Diaz collected seven points, four rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes before fouling out. The Diazs also have an older brother, Eric, who played at Division II Eckerd (Fla.) College.
Weber Era Opens with a Win
K-State opened the Bruce Weber Era with a dominate 85-52 victory over North Dakota on Nov. 9. The Wildcats broke open a one-point game with a 10-2 run to end the first half then used stellar shooting (53.1%) in the second half to post its 10th straight season-opening win. Eleven players scored in the contest, including four in double figures, led by 13 points each from sophomores Thomas Gipson and Angel Rodriguez. The squad is now 85-24 all-time in season openers, including a 73-8 mark at home. Overall, the Wildcats have won 19 consecutive openers at home, including a 20-1 record at Bramlage Coliseum. Weber is 14-1 (.933) in his 15-year career as a head coach in season openers (SIU and Illinois), including a 14-0 mark in home openers.
Weber Continues Success by Wildcat Coaches in Debut
Weber continued the success of Wildcat head coaches in their debut in the 85-52 win over North Dakota on Nov. 9. K-State head coaches have now won 17 of 24 debuts, including each of the last four and seven of the last eight. Jim Wooldridge (2000), Bob Huggins (2006) and Frank Martin (2007) each won their coaching debuts, while Tom Asbury (1994) was the last Wildcat coach to lose his debut - a 79-48 setback at Alabama on Nov. 16, 1994. K-State coaches have won their last eight debuts that have occurred at home with the last loss icoming way back on Dec. 4, 1944 when Fritz Knorr’s squad lost a 53-35 decision to Fort Riley. Only three coaches - Mike Ahearn (1907), Charles Corsaut (1924) and Knorr - have lost their debut at home.
K-State has proved to be a balanced team across the board with nine players averaging five or more points, including just two in double figures, and nine averaging three or more rebounds per game. Sophomore Angel Rodriguez (14.0 ppg.) and junior Will Spradling (11.3 ppg.) are the only Wildcats to average in double figures and the only players to scored in double figures in each of the first three games. The team has seen six different players collected 10 double-digit scoring games with Rodriguez and Spradling leading the way with three each. Freshman D.J. Johnson is leader on the glass, averaging 7.0 rebounds per game, while senior Jordan Henriquez (7.0 rpg.) and sophomore Thomas Gipson (5.7 rpg.) are right behind Johnson. Rodriguez has dished out a team-best 12 assists and is one of three (along with Spradling and Omari Lawrence) with a team-high four steals. In all, eight players have at least three assists and nine have at least two steals. The Wildcats have had two different scoring leaders (with Rodriguez leading vs. North Dakota and Lamar) and two different leading rebounders (with Johnson leading vs. North Dakota and Lamar). Weber has played all 13 players in each of the three games with only four players averaging more than 20 minutes in those games. In all, only two players - Rodney McGruder and Spradling - averaging more than 20 minutes.
The Wildcats are averaging 83.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting, including 39.1 percent from 3-point range, through the first three games. The team ranks first in the Big 12 in assists (17.7), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and turnover margin (+8.0), second in scoring margin (+39.3), 3-point field goal percentage and offensive rebounds (17.3), third in scoring offense and fifth in field goal percentage. K-State has registered more than 80 points in two of three games, narrowly missing the mark with 79 vs. Lamar. It is the highest scoring average through the first three games since the 2009-10 squad averaged 84.7 points and posted 80 or more points in each of its first three games. The Wildcats have done it a variety of ways, averaging 33.3 points in the paint, 21.7 points off of turnovers and 37.7 points from its bench. The team is also averaging nine 3-pointers per outing. K-State has shot well from the field, connecting on 50 percent or better in three of its last five halves. The squad connected on a season-best 55.7 percent from the field against Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13, its highest field goal percentage since shooting 60.3 percent against North Carolina Central on Feb. 17, 2009. The Wildcats connected on 50 percent in both halves vs. UAH.
K-State has used quick starts in two of their first three games to jump out to big leads, helping the Wildcats hold a 126-53 edge at halftime. The squad jumped out to 15-0 lead on Lamar on Nov. 12 en route to a 43-15 advantage at halftime, while they broke out to a 19-2 lead on Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13 en route to a 47-11 advantage at the break. The 36-point halftime lead vs. UAH tied for the largest in Bramlage Coliseum history, tying a 55-19 lead over Kennesaw State on Dec. 17, 2006. The only game the Wildcats didn’t jump out to a big lead - the opener vs. North Dakota on Nov. 9 - they broke open a one-point game with a 10-2 run right before the half to take a 36-27 edge at the break. The advantage then ballooned to as many as 35 in the second half, as the Wildcats outscored North Dakota, 49-25, on 53.1 percent shooting (17-of-32).
On the Defensive
The Wildcats have not only been stellar on the offensive end, but that success has translated into excellence on the defensive end, where they rank first in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 44.3 points per game. The squad also ranks first in 3-point field goal percentage defense (16.7 percent) and second in field goal percentage defense (29.7 percent) and rebounding (47.7). Lamar has been the only opponent to shoot better than 40 percent (44.7) against K-State, but most of that came in the second half of a game that was 43-15 at the break where the Cardinals scored 40 points on 57.7 percent from the field. The 133 points yielded through the first three games are the fewest in the shot clock era (1985-86) and the fewest since the 1947-48 squad (who advanced to the school’s first Final Four) allowed just 88 points (29.3) through the first three games. The previous low for points (140) allowed in the first three game came in 1981-82. The defensive effort was nearly historic in the 87-26 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13, as the 26 points allowed were one shy of the Bramlage Coliseum record of 25 set against Savannah State on Jan. 7, 2008. The Chargers’ 16.4 field goal percentage (9-of-55) was only surpassed by Savannah State’s 15.5 percentage.
Points Off Turnovers
A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams were their ability to score points off of opponent’s mistakes and Bruce Weber has continued that legacy in his first season. The Wildcats are out-scoring their opponents, 65-22 (an average of 21.7 points), through the first three games, including a 34-7 edge over Lamar on Nov. 12. The team is forcing their opponents into 19.7 turnovers per game, including a season-high 26 by Lamar, while only turning the ball over an average of 11.7 per game. The +8.0 turnover margin and 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio are both tops in the Big 12. In Martin’s five seasons, the Wildcats scored 3,081 points off of 2,763 turnovers in 169 games - an average of 18.2 points per game. Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in that five-year period came off of offense generated from turnovers. The school has scored 500 or more points off of opponent turnovers in six straight seasons, including 577 (17.5 average per game) in 2011-12.
Kansas State has taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 33.3 points in the paint and 15.3 points off of second-chance opportunities. The Wildcats are averaging 47.7 rebounds per game (second in the Big 12), including 17.3 on the offensive end (second in the Big 12), and have out-rebounded all three of their opponents. The squad’s 16.3 rebounding margin ranks third in the Big 12. The team has 40 or more rebounds each of its three games, including a season-best 55 vs. Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13, which included 42 defensive boards, which ties for the second-most in school history and the most since also posting 42 against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 16, 1998. K-State has tallied 700 or more defensive rebounds in each of the last six seasons, including 756 in 2011-12, which ranks ninth in school history. The team has had 14 players grabbed at least five rebounds in a game this season, including a career-best and team-high nine boards by Shane Southwell vs. UAH.
Adding to the K-State’s balanced attack is the production it’s getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 37.7 points this season and holding a 113-50 edge from its bench. The team has collected at least 20 points from its bench in each of its first three games, including a season-best 45 points vs. North Dakota on Nov. 9. Reserves scored nearly half of the team’s points against both North Dakota and Alabama-Huntsville with Thomas Gipson tying Angel Rodriguez for scoring lead (13) vs. UND and Shane Southwell leading the way with a career-best 16 points vs. UAH. The rebounding leader has come from the bench in each of the three games with D.J. Johnson posting the team-high vs. North Dakota (nine) and Lamar (eight) and Southwell recording a career-high nine boards vs. UAH. Nearly 60 percent (84) of the team’s rebounding total has come from its bench.
McGruder Named Preseason Candidate for Naismith, Wooden Awards
Senior Rodney McGruder has been selected as a preseason candidate for two of the most prestigious awards in college basketball, as he was named one of 50 preseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award by the Los Angeles Athletic Club on Nov. 8 before he was selected to the early season watch list for the Naismith Trophy by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Nov. 12. The preseason lists, which reflects the early frontrunners for two of basketball’s Premier Player of the Year awards, is based on last year’s individual performance and team records. McGruder becomes the first Wildcat named to the preseason list for both awards since teammate Jacob Pullen was selected in 2010. One of just three unanimous Preseason All-Big 12 selections, McGruder looks to build on an impressive junior campaign, in which, he led the Wildcats in 11 categories, including scoring (15.8 ppg.), double-figure scoring (28), field goals (188), 3-point field goals (50) and free throws (97). He was one of six Big 12 players selected to the Wooden list, which included Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, Kansas’ Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey and OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash, while he was one of five Big 12 players on the Naismith list, including Jackson, Withey, Kansas’ Ben McLemore and OSU’s Marcus Smart.
McGruder Named to Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Senior Rodney McGruder was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big 12 team released by the conference office on Oct. 4. McGruder, who was an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in 2011-12, was one of three unanimous picks by the league’s head coaches, joining Kansas’ Jeff Withey and Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash. The final two spots on the team went to Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Texas’ Myck Kabongo. Jackson was voted as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by the coaches, while Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart were the Preseason Newcomer and Freshman of the Year.
McGruder is the first player named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team since Jacob Pullen was named to the squad along with garnering Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year honors in 2010-11. It marks just the third time that a Wildcat student-athlete (Manny Dies in 1998-99, Pullen and Curtis Kelly in 2010-11) has been selected to the preseason team. McGruder is of only three returning Big 12 players to have ranked in the Top 20 in both scoring and rebounding in 2011-12.
‘Cats Enjoy Memorable Trip to Brazil
K-State got a jump start on its preparations for the 2012-13 men’s basketball season with its 10-day trip to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 8-17, 2012. The NCAA allows teams to make a foreign trip once every four years, but this was the first by the program since playing four games in and around Vancouver, British Columbia in October 2004. Overall, it was the program’s fourth trip outside the country, which includes excursions to Japan in 1981 and Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden in 1993. K-State played four games during the trip, posting a 2-2 record as the squad had to adjust to international rules (four, eight-minute quarters among other differences with NCAA rules). The Wildcats averaged 70 points on 41.9 percent shooting (99-of-236), including 31.4 percent (22-of-70) from the 3-point range, while connecting on 75.9 percent (60-of-79) from the free throw line. The team averaged 37.5 rebounds, 15.8 assists, 17.5 turnovers, 4.8 blocks and 9.8 blocks per game.
Sophomore Angel Rodriguez paced all scorers with a 10.3 points per game average on 40 percent shooting, including 35.7 percent from 3-point range, with a team-best 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Three others - Nino Williams, Rodney McGruder and Adrian Diaz - all averaged 9.0 points per game, while junior Will Spradling and senior Jordan Henriquez added 8.5 points and 7.3 points per game averages. Williams led the team in rebounding (6.0 rpg.), 3-point field goal percentage (40.0) and free throw percentage (83.3), while Diaz was tops in field goals (14), field goal percentage (58.3) and blocks (2.5 bpg.). Freshman D.J. Johnson was second in rebounding (5.3 rpg.), while Diaz and Henriquez were third at 4.8 rebounds per game.
‘Cats Picked 5th in Big 12 Preseason Poll
Kansas State was selected to finish fifth in the preseason 2012-13 Big 12 Conference coaches’ poll released by the league office on Oct. 11. The Wildcats received 54 points to earn fifth place in the second-year of the 10-team conference configuration, just four points behind fourth-place Texas (58) and six behind third-place Oklahoma State (60). Kansas was the overwhelming pick to win the league, earning 81 points and nine of the 10 first-place votes. Baylor was chosen second with 63 points and received the other first-place vote. After the top 5, the rest of the poll included newcomer West Virginia (45), Oklahoma (34), Iowa State (28), Texas Tech (18) and TCU (9). Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams. The fifth-place prediction is one spot better than last season’s pick of sixth place, which was the lowest for K-State since 2008-09. The Wildcats, who finished in fifth place in the Big 12 a year ago, are one of only two teams to finish in the league’s top-5 and receive a bye at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship each of the past six seasons. With only 10 teams, the top-6 will earn a bye in the 2013 event with the lower four seeds playing on the first day, which will be played at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
K-State Selected to Play in 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off
K-State has been selected to participate in the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21, 22 and 24, 2013 at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, in the cosmopolitan Hato Rey district of San Juan. The field for the seventh annual event includes Auburn, Charlotte, Florida State, Georgetown, Long Beach State, Michigan and VCU. Six of the eight schools advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, while five are either ranked or receiving votes in the current Associated Press/USA Today Coaches polls. The Wildcats could meet the Wolverines in the NIT Season Tip-Off next week in New York City. The bracket-format tournament will feature 12 games over three days from Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 21, 22 and 24. Each team will compete in one game per day, advancing through a bracket-tournament format. The two teams that remain undefeated throughout will face off in the championship game on Nov. 24. Previous winners of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off include Alabama, Minnesota, Villanova, Xavier and Miami (Fla.).
This will mark the Wildcats’ second trip to the Caribbean island in the past five seasons, as the squad posted a third-place finish with a 2-1 record at the 2009 event. The team posted wins over Boston University (80-70) and Dayton (83-75) in between a loss to Mississippi (86-74). It will also be a homecoming for current point guard Angel Rodriguez, who is a native of San Juan.
Recapping the Exhibition Season
Kansas State swept its two-game exhibition season, earning an 81-61 victory over Washburn on Oct. 30 followed by an 81-51 win over Emporia State on Nov. 4. The Wildcats averaged 81 points in its two-game slate on 48.4 percent (59-of-122) shooting from the field, including 26.7 percent from 3-point range, to go with 48.5 rebounds, 16.5 assists, 13.0 turnovers, 8.5 steals and 4.5 blocks per game. The team shot just 56.3 percent (36-of-64) from the free throw line. Most of the 162 points scored came from paint (78), while the squad scored 38 points off turnovers, 36 on second-chance opportunities and 88 came from the bench.
Most of the minutes were spread across the roster with 13 of 15 players seeing an average of at least four minutes per game and only two players - Omari Lawrence (22.0) and Will Spradling (20.5) - averaging more than 20 minutes per game. Nine players averaged at least 5.5 points per game in the two-game stretch with three players averaging in double figures led by freshman D.J. Johnson (13.5 ppg.), while seniors Jordan Henriquez (10.5 ppg.) and Rodney McGruder (10.0 ppg.) also averaged in twin figures. The Wildcats also dominated the glass, holding a +16 rebounding margin, including an average of 17 offensive boards per game. Eight players averaged at least two rebounds per game, including a team-best 8.5 average by Henriquez to go with 8.0 average from Johnson. Eight players also posted at least two assists during exhibition play with junior Shane Southwell leading the way with six, while 10 players had at least one steal led by three apiece from Angel Rodriguez and Nino Williams.
Led by first-year head coach Bruce Weber, Kansas State returns 12 lettermen in 2012-13, including seven players with starting experience from a team that posted a 22-11 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. Senior guard Rodney McGruder, one of three unanimous Preseason All-Big 12 selections, is the returning leader in 11 categories, including scoring (15.8 ppg.), double-digit scoring games (28), field goals, 3-point field goals, free throws and minutes after starting all 33 games a year ago. McGruder is one of only three returning Big 12 players to have ranked in the league’s Top 20 in both scoring and rebounding in 2011-12. Others returning with starting experience include Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection and senior forward Jordan Henriquez (7.6 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), junior guard Will Spradling (9.3 ppg., 2.8 apg.), sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez (8.3 ppg., 3.2 apg., 1.3 spg.) and sophomore forward Thomas Gipson (7.0 ppg., 4.7 rpg.). In all, the squad returns more than 80 percent of its scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks and minutes played from last season.
Bruce Weber, one of the winningest active Division I coaches with over 300 wins and eight NCAA Tournament appearances to his credit, was named the 24th head men’s basketball coach at K-State on March 31, 2012. The 2005 National Coach of the Year, Weber has won 313 games in his 14 seasons as a head coach, which includes stints at Southern Illinois (1998-2003) and Illinois (2003-12). Weber’s staff, which brings over 115 years of experience at a variety of levels, includes associate head coach Chris Lowery, assistants Alvin Brooks III and Chester Frazier, director of operations Brad Korn and strength coach Jimmy Price.
The Wildcats welcome just three newcomers in 2012-13, which includes junior walk-on Ryan Schultz and freshmen D.J. Johnson and Michael Orris. Schultz walked on to the team this past summer after playing two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he averaged 7.9 points on a team-best 54.9 percent shooting with 5.8 rebounds as a junior in 2011-12. Johnson and Orris both signed with the Wildcats after the hiring of head coach Bruce Weber. Johnson, a two-sport standout at St. Louis’ Parkway North High School, was the first commit for Weber in April, while Orris, who originally signed with Illinois as apart of Weber’s final recruiting class, did not receive his release until May before enrolling at K-State.
Here are brief thumbnails on each newcomer:
--D.J. Johnson (6-8, 250, Freshman) - A three-year starter and lettermen at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, where he helped the Vikings to their first-ever Class 5, District 5 title in 2011-12... Averaged 16.3 points on 64.6 percent shooting to go with 11.9 rebounds, 5.0 blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.2 assists per game in 28 games as a senior... Earned second team All-Class 5 as a senior in 2011-12... Led the team in points, field goal percentage, rebounding and blocks... Collected 18 double-doubles.
--Michael Orris (6-2, 190, Freshman) - A two-year starter and lettermen at Crete-Monee High School in Crete, Ill., where he helped the Warriors to a berth in Illinois High School Association Regionals in 2011-12... Averaged 11 points and 4 assists per game as senior... Selected honorable mention Class 4A All-State in 2011-12... Helped the Warriors to their first sectional title as a junior en route to the best record in school history at 25-4 overall in 2010-11 with an average of 10.2 points and 6.2 assists.
--Ryan Schultz (6-5, 200, Junior) - A two-year lettermen at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he helped the Blue Dragons to a 25-7 overall record as a sophomore in 2011-12... Named a NJCAA Academic All-American as a sophomore.
Up Next: Delaware (2-1)
K-State will head to New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals on Wednesday night to play eighth-seed Delaware (2-1) at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU in the first game of a doubleheader (Michigan-Pittsburgh at 8:30 p.m.) at Madison Square Garden.