Kansas State (6-1) will play its first true road game of the season on Saturday, as the Wildcats bring senior Rodney McGruder back to his hometown of Washington, D.C. to play Atlantic 10 opponent George Washington (4-4) at the Charles E. Smith Center. The game will tip off at 1:36 p.m. CT on the CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan (play-by-play) and former Xavier and Virginia coach Pete Gillen (analyst) on the call. The contest is a return of a home-and-home series started last season in Manhattan with the Wildcats posting a 69-56 win over the Colonials on Dec. 1, 2011, while it will be the first at George Washington in more than 70 years since the Colonials won 48-25 in the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 28, 1940. Overall, it will be just the 17th true road game in non-conference play for the Wildcats in the past 10 seasons, including the seventh in the last five years. Since losing nine consecutive road non-conference games from 2003-06, the squad has won six of their last seven (five wins in a row) away from home in non-league play, including victories at Cleveland State (2008), UNLV (2009), Loyola Chicago (2010), Washington State (2010) and Virginia Tech (2011). The game will also serve as a homecoming for McGruder, who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area playing AAU for the D.C. Assault and as a prep for Archbishop Carroll High School (2005-08) before finishing at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla. A unanimous Preseason All-Big 12 selection as well as a candidate for the Naismith and Wooden Awards, McGruder recently became the eighth Wildcat with 1,100 points and 500 rebounds in a career. His 1,117 points currently rank 14th on the school’s all-time scoring list, while his 74 consecutive starts tie Ed Nealy (1978-82) for the fourth-most in school history. He expects around 65 family and friends at Saturday’s game, including his parents Rodney and Rudine McGruder.
George Washington (4-4) has won three of its last five games since opening the season at 1-2. The Colonials have faced a daunting schedule with four true road games (Boston U, Notre Dame, James Madison and Bradley) and just three true home games through the first month of the season. The squad is a mix of newcomers and veterans (three freshmen and two senior in starting line-up), as they return seven lettermen from a team that posted a 10-21 record in 2011-12. For the season, George Washington is averaging 64.8 points on 45.4 percent shooting, including 32.4 percent from 3-point range, while allowing opponents 63.1 points on a 40.9 percent clip. Senior Isaiah Armwood is one of three players in double figures with a 13.0 points per game average on 54.5 percent shooting, while adding a team-best 9.0 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. Fellow senior Lasan Kromah and freshman Patricio Garino are both averaging 10.5 points per game. Of note, senior Bryan Bynes (2.0 ppg., 2.3 rpg.) is a close friend and high school teammate of K-State senior Martavious Irving (4.6 ppg., 2.7 apg.). The squad is led by veteran head coach Mike Lonergan, who has won nearly 400 games in his career, which includes stints at Catholic (1992-2004) and Vermont (2005-11).
Last Meeting: K-State 69, George Washington 56 (Dec. 1, 2011)
K-State used a pivotal 20-5 run early in the second half to pull away from George Washington, 69-56, on Dec. 1, 2011. It was the first meeting between the two program since 1940. Leading 39-37 with 16:11 remaining, the Wildcats ran off 10 straight points, which included 3-pointers by sophomore Shane Southwell and senior Jamar Samuels and four points from sophomore Will Spradling, over a two-minute span to push the lead to double figures. Freshman Thomas Gipson was one of three players with double-digit rebounding and one of two with double-doubles, posting a team-high 17 points and a career-best 13 rebounds. Samuels added 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Spradling tallied 14, including 12 in the second half.
Saturday’s game will mark the third meeting between the two schools on the hardwood with the series knotted at 1-1. The Wildcats are 21-18 all-time against teams from the Atlantic 10 Conference, including a 7-9 mark on the road. The last road win against an Atlantic 10 foe came at Saint Louis, a 67-63 victory on Dec. 28, 1998.
Quickly on Kansas State
--K-State has played five of its seven games at home this season, where the Wildcats have won 26 consecutive non-conference home games in the month of December and boast a 37-1 mark in the month at Bramlage Coliseum the past 10 seasons with the last loss coming to Rutgers on Dec. 28, 2004. The squad is a combined 92-21 (.814) in November and December since 2003-04.
--The Wildcats have posted a .500 or better record in true road games in the past four seasons, including a composite 23-16 (.590) road record since the 2008-09 season. The team has won six of its last seven non-conference road games, including five straight wins (Cleveland State, UNLV, Loyola Chicago, Washington State and Virginia Tech). The squad had lost nine straight non-league road games until an 83-81 win at North Dakota State on Dec. 9, 2006. Last year, K-State had an equal or better road record in Big 12 play for the second time in three years (5-4 at home and away), while the 2009-10 team was a program-best 6-2 on the road.
--K-State ranks in the Top 30 nationally in 10 categories, including first in 3-point field goal percentage defense (21.2) and offensive rebounds (18.6), eighth in rebounding (44.4), ninth in scoring margin (+20.7), 11th in scoring defense (53.6), 14th in rebounding margin (+10.4), 21st in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.37), 24th in assists (17.0) and turnover margin (4.6) and 28th in field goal percentage defense (36.8). The squad also ranks among the Top 5 in 13 categories in the Big 12, including first in scoring margin, 3-point field goal percentage defense, assists (17.0), turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratioand offensive rebounds.
K-State has proven to be a balanced team across the board with eight players averaging five or more points, including just one in double figures, and seven averaging three or more rebounds per game. Senior Rodney McGruder (12.6 ppg.) is the only Wildcat to average in double figures, while three other players - Angel Rodriguez (9.6 ppg.), Will Spradling (8.7 ppg.) and Thomas Gipson (8.4 ppg.) are averaging better than eight points per contest. The team has seen nine different players collect 22 double-digit scoring games with Rodriguez leading the way with five. In all, the Wildcats have had five players lead or share the scoring lead in seven games. Gipson (6.1 rpg.) paces the squad in rebounding despite leading in a game just once, while three others - D.J. Johnson (5.9 rpg.), Jordan Henriquez (5.3 rpg.) and McGruder (4.9 rpg.) - average better than 4.5 rebounds per game. The team has had nine players either lead or share the lead in rebounding with Johnson doing it twice.
The Wildcats have also been diverse in other categories, including five players with double-digit assists and seven with at least five steals. Rodriguez has dished out a team-best 31 assists with six players either leading or sharing the lead in assists in seven games. Spradling paces all players with 10 steals, while seven have either led or shared the lead in steals. Weber has played at least 12 in five of seven games with players posting more than 20 minutes of action 21 times, including 30+ on five occasions. Only Spradling (26.3), McGruder (25.9 mpg.) and Rodriguez (20.4) - are averaging more than 20 minutes for the season.
On the Defensive
K-State has continued to be one of the best defensive teams not only in the Big 12 Conference, but nationally, where the squad ranks first nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (21.2), 11th in scoring defense (53.6 ppg.), 14th in rebound margin (+10.4) and 28th in field goal percentage defense (36.8). In all, the Wildcats rank either first or second in six Big 12 categories, including first in 3-point field goal percentage defense, turnover margin (+4.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) and second in scoring defense (53.6 ppg.), rebounding (44.4) and rebounding margin (+10.4).
The 375 points surrendered through the first seven games are the fewest in the shot clock era (1985-86) and the fewest since the 1982-83 squad allowed just 367 points (52.4 ppg.) through the first seven games. 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. The Wildcats have held five of seven opponents to 55 points or less.
K-State continues to be one of the best rebounding squads in the country, as the Wildcats rank eighth nationally in rebounding, including first in offensive rebounds, and 14th in rebounding margin (+10.4). The squad rank second in the Big 12 with an average of 44.4 rebounds per game, including a league-best 18.6 on the offensive end, and have out-rebounded their foes by a 311-238 margin, including 130-81 on the offensive end. The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in five of its first seven 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. The team has had players grabbed at least five rebounds in a game 27 times this season, including five posting at least five boards vs. USC Upstate.
The Wildcats have taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 33.3 points in the paint and 17.3 points off of second-chance opportunities. The team has at least 30 points in the paint in five of seven games, including a season-high 44 vs. UAH on Nov. 13, while it has tallied at least 18 second-chance points four times with a season-best 23 vs. USC Upstate.
K-State has finished among the Top 5 in the Big 12 in rebounding in each of the last five seasons, including first in 2007-08 and 2008-09, while the squad has led the league in offensive boards for five consecutive years, including a school-record 559 in 2009-10. The Wildcats have tallied 700 or more defensive rebounds in each of the last six seasons, including 756 in 2011-12.
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, 130-67 (an average of 18.6 points), through the first seven games in points off of turnovers, including a 34-7 edge over Lamar on Nov. 12. The team is forcing their opponents into 17 turnovers per game, including a season-high 26 by Lamar, while only turning the ball over an average of 12.4 times per game. The +4.6 turnover margin (24th) and 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio (21st) are both in the Top 25 nationally. 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.
Adding to the K-State’s balanced attack is the production it’s getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 31.7 points this season, including a 222-129 edge over opponents. The team has collected at least 20 points from its bench in six of the last seven games, including a season-best 45 points vs. North Dakota on Nov. 9. Reserves have scored nearly half of the team’s points four times with Thomas Gipson tying for the scoring lead from the bench against North Dakota and Delaware (before earning his first start vs. USC Upstate) and Shane Southwell leading the way with a career-best 16 points off the bench vs. Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13. The rebounding leader has come from the bench in five of seven games with D.J. Johnson posting the team-high vs. North Dakota (nine) and Lamar (eight), Southwell recording a career-high nine boards vs. UAH, Adrian Diaz with a career-best 10 vs. North Florida and Gipson tying Will Spradling for the rebounding lead (six) vs. Delaware. Nearly 55 percent (167) of the rebounding total has come from its bench, while 43 percent (222) of the scoring total has come from reserves.
Protecting the Ball
Head coach Bruce Weber made ball security a big emphasis after a turnover-plagued trip to Brazil and so far those efforts are paying off, as K-State ranks first in the Big 12 in both assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) and turnover margin (+4.6). The squad ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both categories, including 21st in assist-to-turnover ratio and 24th in turnover margin. Through the first seven games, the Wildcats have produced 12.4 turnovers per game (tied for third in Big 12 with Baylor), while forcing its foes into an average of 17.0 turnovers (second-most in the Big 12 to Texas Tech). The team has 14 or fewer turnovers in five of seven games, including just six against No. 4/4 Michigan on Nov. 23, while they have forced their opponents into 19 or more turnovers three times, including a season-high 26 by Lamar on Nov. 12. K-State has also capitalizing on its opponent’s mistakes, averaging 18.6 points off of turnovers, while allowing opponents to score just 9.6 points per game on its miscues.
More on Ball Protection
Six Wildcats have posted an even or positive assist-to-turnover ratio this season, including its four primary ball-handlers (Angel Rodriguez, Martavious Irving, Shane Southwell and Will Spradling) combining for 82 assists to 31 turnovers (2.6 ratio). The current ratio is nearly double for the quartet after posting a 1.4 ratio (302 assists to 211 turnovers) as a group in 2011-12. Spradling (3.5) and Rodriguez (2.2) rank first and second in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio and are two of just three players with a ratio above 2.0 (along with Baylor’s Pierre Jackson). Spradling, who has 21 assists to just six turnovers, led the team with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio a season ago, while Rodriguez has made a notable improvement in the area after posting a 1.2 ratio (101 assists to 85 turnovers) as a freshman in 2011-12. Irving has also doubled his ratio (3.8 to 1.5) with 19 assists to just five turnovers, while Southwell has registered a solid 1.8 ratio (11 assists to 6 turnovers) after posting a 1.6 ratio last season.
K-State has used quick starts in three of their first seven games to jump out to big leads, helping the Wildcats hold a 253-153 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 team led by as many as 17 in the first half against North Florida before leading as many as 30 in the second half. The squad used an 18-2 run in the last 5:46 of the first half against USC Upstate to break an 18-all en route to a 36-20 lead at halftime.
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 home game the Wildcats didn’t jump out to a big lead - the opener vs. North Dakota - they broke open a one-point game with a 10-2 run right before the half to take a 36-27 advantage at the break. The lead ballooned to as many as 35 in the second half, as the Wildcats outscored UND, 49-25, on 53.1 percent shooting.
Recapping the Big Apple
Kansas State finished as the runner-up in the NIT Season Tip-Off, defeating No. 8 seed Delaware, 66-63, in the semifinals before falling to top-seed and No. 4/4 Michigan, 71-57, in the championship game. The Wildcats were able to hold off the pesky Blue Hens in the first game, as junior Will Spradling knocked down all of his four free throws in the last 22 seconds to cap a stellar game of 12 points, seven assists (and zero turnovers), six rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes. Delaware, which was picked second in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) poll, proved tough and never back down from a much-deeper K-State team. The Wildcats built an 11-point lead with just under eight minutes to play before the Blue Hens cut the deficit to two points on three occasions, including 60-58 with 1:23 remaining. Sophomores Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson also finished with 12 points against Delaware. In the title game, the Wolverines broke open a tight game with eight straight points to start the second half. The remarkably efficient Michigan offense was the story, as the team connected on 51.8 percent of its field goals, including 54.5 percent in the second half, while K-State shot just 36. 7 percent from the field, including 22.2 percent from 3-point range. Senior Rodney McGruder scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, while Rodriguez added 10 points and a team-high six assists. Rodriguez was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 11 points and 5.5 assists in two games.
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 with an 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.
McGruder Starting To Heat Up
Senior Rodney McGruder is starting to find his stride after a slow start to the season, averaging 19.0 points on 46.7 percent (14-of-30) in the past two games. He began the season with just 50 points (10 ppg.) through the first five games on 38.8 percent shooting (21-of-54) with just two double-figure scoring games. He posted his first 20-point game of the season and 14th of his career against USC Upstate on Dec. 2 with a player-high 22 points on 8-of-16 field goals to go with a 5-of-5 effort from the free throw line. He scored 14 of his game-high 16 points against No. 4/4 Michigan on Nov. 23 in the second half, which means in the last 45 minutes of game action, he has scored 36 points on 53.8 percent (14-of-26) shooting.
McGruder Joins Elite Company
Senior Rodney McGruder joined elite company against USC Upstate, as he became just the eight Wildcat in school history with 1,100 points and 500 rebounds in a career. He joins Rolando Blackman (1,844 points and 607 rebounds), Bob Boozer (1,685 points and 824 rebounds), Cartier Martin (1,546 points and 546 rebounds), Willie Murrell (1,121 points and 576 rebounds), Ed Nealy (1,304 points and 1,069 rebounds), Jack Parr (1,184 points and 889 rebounds) and Jamar Samuels (1,259 points and 716 rebounds). McGruder currently ranks 14th all-time in scoring with 1,117 points (just 67 points from tying Parr for 13th and 187 points from tying Nealy and cracking the Top 10), while he is just the 25th player with 500 or more rebounds in a career.
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. 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.
Rodriguez’s Improved Play
Sophomore Angel Rodriguez has really stepped up his play in 2012-13, as he paces K-State in 3-point field goals (11) and assists (4.4 apg.), while he is second in scoring (9.6 ppg.), field goals (21) and free throw percentage (82.4). He has helped the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, while he places second individually in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2) and sixth in assists. He has scored in double figures a team-best five times in seven games, including a career-best 19 points vs. Lamar on Nov. 12. He has nearly doubled his assist-to-turnover ratio, going from 1.2 as a freshman to his current tally.
Spradling A Constant From Free Throw Line
Junior Will Spradling has been a model of consistency from the free throw line, knocking down 12-of-12 opportunities, including 4-of-4 in the last 22 seconds to preserve the Wildcats’ 66-63 win over Delaware in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 21. His perfect 12-of-12 attempts has raised his career free throw percentage to 83.5 (137-of-164), which is the second-highest in school history behind Steve Henson’s 90 percent (361-of-401; 1986-90). He has not only been stellar on the free throw line, but Spradling ranks first in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5), ninth in assists (3.0), 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7), 11th in 3-point field goals made (1.6) and 12th in steals (1.4). He ranks third on the team in scoring at 8.7 points per game and has registered four double-figure scoring games, including a season-high 14 vs. Lamar on Nov. 12.
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 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 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.
‘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, posting a 2-2 record as the squad had to adjust to international rules (four, eight-minute quarters among other differences). The Wildcats averaged 70 points on 41.9 percent shooting, including 31.4 percent from the 3-point range, while connecting on 75.9 percent from the free throw line. Angel Rodriguez paced all scorers with a 10.3 points per game average on 40 percent shooting 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 Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez added 8.5 points and 7.3 points per game averages. Williams led 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.).
Up Next: vs. 10/10 Gonzaga (9-0)
K-State will make its first appearance in the State Farm Battle in Seattle event on Saturday, Dec. 15, as the Wildcats face No. 10/10 Gonzaga (9-0) at KeyArena at 8 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs will be the Wildcats’ third Top 10 foe (No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Florida).