Kansas State (8-2) makes its annual trip to Kansas City on Saturday, as the Wildcats face yet another daunting task against No. 8/9 Florida (8-1) in the third annual Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. CT with Mitch Holthus (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst) on the call. Saturday’s contest will mark the third against a Top 15 opponent this season after dropping neutral-site contests to No. 4 Michigan (71-57) at Madison Square Garden and to No. 14 Gonzaga (68-52) at KeyArena. The Wildcats are playing a regular-season home game at the Sprint Center for the sixth consecutive season with wins in four of those five previous meetings, including a 71-58 victory over No. 23/21 Alabama last season. The school is 7-6 all-time in the building, which includes four trips to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and the 2010 CBE Classic. Overall, K-State has played 181 games in Kansas City dating back to 1926 with a 105-76 (.580) record.
K-State made progress offensively in Tuesday’s 78-69 win over Texas Southern, as the Wildcats posted season-highs for field goal percentage (56.4), points in the paint (46) and assists (21). This came on the heels of a offensive struggle in the loss to No. 14/14 Gonzaga when the squad posted season-lows in 11 categories, including points (52), field goal percentage (33.3) and rebounds (26). However, the team seemed to regress on the defensive end, allowing the Tigers to score 69 points on 45.6 percent shooting, which included 13 3-pointers. Despite that step back, the squad remains one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12, ranking second in rebounding (26.5) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.5) and third in scoring defense (57.4).
Florida (8-1) rebounded from its first loss of the season at Arizona on Dec. 15 to post an 82-43 win over SE Louisiana on Wednesday and move to 6-0 at home this season. The Gators have been one of the most impressive teams in the country, averaging 73.4 points on 47.4 percent shooting, including 36.3 percent from 3-point range, while holding opponents to a 49.6 points on 35.2 percent from the floor. The squad’s margin of victory is 23.9 points per game, which includes impressive wins over 2012 NCAA Tournament squads Wisconsin (74-56), Marquette (82-49) and Florida State (72-47). Four players are averaging in double figures led by seniors Mike Rosario (12.9 ppg.) and Kenny Boynton (12.6 ppg.). Junior Erik Murphy averages 11.6 points per game, while fellow junior Patric Young adds 10 points to team-bests in rebounds (6.9 rpg.) and blocks (2.1 bpg.). Florida is led by veteran coach Billy Donovan, who has led the school to two NCAA Championships and nearly 400 wins. Donovan, who is 394-159 in his 17th season at the helm, is 1-2 all-time against K-State with both losses coming while he was head coach at Marshall.
LAST MEETING: FLORIDA 57, 6/6 KANSAS STATE 44 [NOV. 18, 2010]
Florida used a stellar defensive effort to knock off No. 6/6 K-State, 57-44, at the Orange Bowl Classic at the Bank Atlantic Center on Dec. 18, 2010. The Gators held the Wildcats to just 27.3 percent shooting, including 15.8 percent from 3-point range, while shooting over 50 percent from the field with three players in double figures. Senior Jacob Pullen led all players with 19 points, while Martavious Irving added eight points from the bench. In all, five current Wildcats played in the game, including Jordan Henriquez (0 points), Rodney McGruder (3 points, 9 rebounds), Shane Southwell (2 points) and Will Spradling (2 points). Six current Gators played in the game, including Kenny Boynton (15 points), Erik Murphy (7 points, 4 rebounds), Casey Prather (0 points), Scottie Wilbekin (0 points), Will Yeguete (3 points, 3 rebounds) and Patric Young (0 points, 2 rebounds).
This will be the second overall meeting between K-State and Florida on the hardwood with both meetings now coming in the last three seasons. The Wildcats are 156-144 all-time against the SEC, including an 81-48 mark in home venues. Most of that record came against current SEC schools Missouri (119-116) and Texas A&M (17-7) when they were in the Big 12.
QUICKLY ON KANSAS STATE
--K-State’s 8-2 start ties for the fourth-best to start a season in the last 10 seasons behind the 9-1 starts by the 2004-05, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 squads. The Wildcats’ two losses are to Top 15 teams in current No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga. The team will face three Top 15 teams (No. 4 Michigan, No. 14 Gonzaga and No. 8 Florida) in non-conference play for the first time in school history (since the 1949-50 season when rankings became available).
--Bruce Weber’s 8-2 record ties for the best start by a first-year K-State head coach in the program’s history, along with Zora Clevenger (1916-17), E.A. Knoth (1920-21), Tom Asbury (1994-95) and Lon Kruger (1986-87). The best campaign by a first-year coach in school history is still held by Clevenger, who led the Wildcats to a 15-2 (.882) mark in his inaugural season in 1916-17. Clevenger made most of his impact on the gridiron, where he was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
--Six of the 10 games have been at home, where the Wildcats have won 27 consecutive non-conference home games in the month of December and boast a 38-1 mark in the month at Bramlage Coliseum the past 10 seasons with the last loss coming to Rutgers on Dec. 28, 2004. Overall, K-State has won 45 consecutive non-conference home games dating back to an 80-77 overtime loss to No. 17 Oregon on Nov. 29, 2007. The squad is 93-21 (.816) at home in November and December since 2003-04.
--K-State hopes to transfer its offensive success to Sprint Center from Bramlage Coliseum, where the Wildcats have averaged 79.2 points on 46.1 percent shooting, including 33 percent from 3-point range, in six games. In the four games away from Bramlage Coliseum this season, the team is averging nearly 20 points less (60.0 ppg.) on 36.2 percent shooting. The defensive effort has also been better at home with opponents averaging 51.7 points compared to 66.0 points away from home.
--The Wildcats have posted a .500 or better record in true road games in the past four seasons, including a composite 24-16 (.600) road record since the 2008-09 season. The team has won seven of its last eight non-conference road games, including six straight wins (Cleveland State, UNLV, Loyola Chicago, Washington State, Virginia Tech and George Washington).
--Heading into the week, K-State ranked in the Top 35 in six categories nationally, including first in offensive rebounds (18.2), third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (22.5), 14th in rebounding (42.6), 15th in scoring defense (56.1), 19th in rebounding margin (+8.4) and 30th in scoring margin (+14.7). The squad ranks among the Top 5 in 13 categories in the Big 12, including first in offensive rebounds, second in rebounding, rebounding margin and 3-point field goal percentage defense and third in scoring defense, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio and fourth in scoring margin.
K-State is having a stellar start to the 2012-13 athletics season, as the Wildcats have one of the best winning percentages among Bowl Championship Series (BCS) schools when combining football and men’s and women’s basketball records. As of Wednesday’s results, the school’s .839 winning percentage (26-5) is fourth only to Notre Dame (.938, 30-2), Ohio State (.875, 28-4) and Louisville (.857, 30-5), while it is one of just 18 BCS schools with 25 or more combined wins among its three major sports. The others include Notre Dame (30), Louisville (30), Ohio State (28), Michigan (28), Stanford (28), Florida (27), South Carolina (27), North Carolina (27), Cincinnati (26), Michigan State (26), Florida State (26), Georgia (26), Minnesota (26), Oklahoma (25), Texas A&M (25), Alabama (25) and Nebraska (25). The football team produced just its second 11-win regular season in school history and its first since 2003, while they are headed to a BCS bowl game (Fiesta Bowl) for the first time in eight years. The men’s basketball team is off to an 8-2 start, while the women’s basketball team (7-2) lost for the first time on Dec. 16 after winning their first seven games. If you take into account the success of the women’s volleyball team, which won 20 matches and advanced to NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in 12 seasons, the Wildcats are 47-15 (.758) since August 24.
LONG HISTORY IN KANSAS CITY
K-State has a long and storied history of playing games in Kansas City,which dates back over 85 years to a 45-26 loss to the Kansas City Athletic Club on Feb. 23, 1926. A holiday tournament was started in 1943 with several area teams and it eventually evolved into the annual Big Six/Seven/Eight Holiday Tournament at Municipal Auditorium. The Big Eight played a holiday tournament as well as its postseason tournament in the city for three seasons, starting in 1976-77, before playing just a postseason classic in 1979-80. The Wildcats played at least one game in Kansas City in the Big Eight/12 Tournament for 26 seasons (1976-2002) until it moved to Dallas in 2003. The Big 12 moved the championship back to the city in 2005 and then again to the Sprint Center in 2007, where it has been contested four times in the last five years. Some of K-State’s greatest moments on the basketball court have come in Kansas City with three of the school’s four Final Four appearances (1948, 1951, 1964) and seven holiday tournament titles (1947, 1950, 1952, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963) being contested at Municipal Auditorium to go with two postseason Big Eight crowns (1977, 1980) at Kemper Arena. Overall, the Wildcats have played 181 games in the city with a 105-76 (.580) record.
K-State has proven to be a balanced team across the board with six players averaging five or more points, including just two in double figures, and seven averaging three or more rebounds per game. Senior Rodney McGruder (13.3 ppg.) and sophomore Angel Rodriguez (10.7 ppg.) are the only Wildcats to average in double figures, while two other players - Will Spradling (8.7 ppg.) and Thomas Gipson (7.9 ppg.) are averaging better than seven points per contest. The team has seen nine players collect 28 double-digit scoring games with Rodriguez (seven) and McGruder (six) leading the way. In all, the Wildcats have had five players lead or share the lead in scoring in 10 games. Gipson (7.1 rpg.) paces the squad in rebounding despite leading in a game just three times, while McGruder (5.2 rpg.), D.J. Johnson (4.8 rpg.), Nino Williams (4.4 rpg.) and Jordan Henriquez (4.1 rpg.) - average better than four rebounds per game. The team has had nine players either lead or share the lead in rebounding.
The Wildcats have also been diverse in other categories, including five players with double-digit assists and 10 with at least five steals. Rodriguez has dished out a team-best 44 assists with six players either leading or sharing the lead in assists in 10 games. Spradling paces all players with 12 steals, while eight have either led or shared the lead in steals. Weber has played at least 12 in six games with players posting more than 20 minutes of action 34 times, including 30+ on 14 occasions. Spradling (28.4), McGruder (27.8 mpg.), Rodriguez (23.3) and Gipson (20.9) are each 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, but nationally, where the squad entered the week ranking third nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (22.5), 14th in rebounding (42.6), 15th in scoring defense (56.1 ppg.), 19th in rebound margin (+8.4) and 47th in field goal percentage defense (38.4). In all, the Wildcats rank either first or second in six Big 12 defensive categories, including second in rebounding, rebounding margin, 3-point field goal percentage defense and third in scoring defense and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3). The squad is fifth in field goal percentage defense (39.1).
The 574 points surrendered through the first 10 games are the fewest in the shot clock era (1985-86) and the fewest since the 1982-83 squad allowed just 535 points (53.5 ppg.) through the first 10 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 10 opponents to 55 points or less.
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, 160-114 (an average of 16.0 points), through the first 10 games in points off of turnovers, including a 34-7 edge over Lamar on Nov. 12. The team is forcing their opponents into 15.8 turnovers per game, including a season-high 26 by Lamar, while turning the ball over an average of 13 times per game. The 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio (44th) and +2.8 turnover margin (45th) are both in the Top 50 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.
K-State continues to be one of the best rebounding squads in the country, as the Wildcats rank 18th nationally in rebounding (42.1), including first in offensive rebounds (17.6), and 19th in rebounding margin (+8.8). The team ranks second in the Big 12 in rebounding, while they are the clear leader in offensive rebounds (17.6 to West Virginia’s 15.8). Overall, the Wildcats have out-rebounded their foes by a 421-333 margin, including 176-111 on the offensive end. Sophomore Thomas Gipson ranks 10th in the Big 12 in overall rebounds (7.1 rpg.), while he is one of three Wildcats in the Top 15 in offensive rebounds (3.4, 1st), along with freshman D.J. Johnson (2.8, 7th) and Rodney McGruder (2.4, 11th). The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in six of its first 10 games, including a season-best 55 vs. Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13, while they have tallied 20 or more offensive boards three times. The squad grabbed 42 defensive rebounds vs. UAH, 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 Wildcats have taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 31.7 points in the paint and 16.4 points off of second-chance opportunities. The team has at least 30 points in the paint in six of 10 games, including a season-high 46 vs. Texas Southern on Dec. 18, while it has tallied at least 15 second-chance points six 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.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Although K-State has turned the ball over 33 times in the last two games, overall the team has been solid protecting the ball, as they rank third in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2) and fourth in turnover margin (+2.8). Entering the week, the Wildcats ranked in the Top 50 nationally in both categories, including 44th in assist-to-turnover ratio and 45th in turnover margin. Through the first 10 games, the Wildcats have produced 13.0 turnovers per game (tying for the fourth-lowest in Big 12), while forcing its foes into an average of 15.8 turnovers (second-most in the Big 12 to Texas Tech). The team has 14 or fewer turnovers in six of 10 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 foes’ mistakes, averaging 16.0 points off of turnovers, while allowing opponents to score just 11.4 points per game off of 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 114 assists to 54 turnovers (2.1 ratio). The current ratio for the quartet is a solid improvement after posting a 1.4 ratio (302 assists to 211 turnovers) as a group in 2011-12. Spradling (2.3, 1st) and Rodriguez (2.0, 5th) both rank in the Big 12’s Top 5 in assist-to-turnover ratio and are two of just five players in the league with a ratio above 2.0. Spradling, who has 30 assists to just 13 turnovers, led the team with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio a season ago, while Rodriguez has made a notable improvement (44 assists to 22 turnovers) in the area after posting a 1.2 ratio (101 assists to 85 turnovers) as a freshman. Irving has also doubled his ratio (2.7 from 1.5) with 24 assists to nine turnovers, while Southwell has registered a solid 1.6 ratio (16 assists to 10 turnovers) after posting the same last season.
Adding to the K-State’s balanced attack is the production it’s getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 26.8 points, including a 268-167 edge over opponents. The team has collected at least 20 points from its bench in seven games, including 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 games with D.J. Johnson posting the team-high vs. North Dakota (9) and Lamar (8), Southwell recording a career-high nine boards vs. UAH, Adrian Diaz grabbing a career-best 10 vs. North Florida and Gipson tying Will Spradling for the rebounding lead (6) vs. Delaware. Nearly 50 percent (201) of the rebounding total has come from its bench, while nearly 40 percent (280) of the scoring total has come from reserves.
McGRUDER NAMED PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Senior Rodney McGruder earned his second career Big 12 weekly honor on Dec. 8 after collecting his sixth career double-double and first of the season in the 65-62 win at George Washington. Playing in front of numerous family and friends in his hometown of Washington, D.C., he tallied 15 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal in a season-high 39 minutes against the Colonials. He earns the weekly honor for the second time since winning on Dec. 26, 2011 after his MVP performance in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. His performance at GW continues his solid play of late after a slow start to the season. He is averaging a team-best 16.6 points to go with 6.4 rebounds per game in the past five games (two 20-point games and four double-figure scoring games) after scoring just 50 points (10 ppg.) through the first five games on 38.8 percent shooting with two double-figure scoring games. McGruder posted his second 20-point game (first since USC Upstate on Dec. 2) and 15th of his career against Texas Southern on Tuesday with a season-high 26 points, which included a career-best 12 field goals made. The 26-point effort was a nice effort after scoring just four points (1-of-9 from field) against No. 14/14 Gonzaga on Dec. 15.
McGRUDER JOINS ELITE COMPANY
Senior Rodney McGruder joined elite company against USC Upstate on Dec. 2, as he became the eighth Wildcat in school history with at least 1,100 points and 500 rebounds in a career. He joined 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 in scoring with 1,162 points (just 22 points from tying Parr for 13th and 141 points from tying Nealy and cracking the Top 10), while he is just the 25th player with 500 or more rebounds in a career. In addition, he has seen action in 86 consecutive games dating back to his sophomore season, including 77 straight starts. His 86 consecutive games played tie for 10th in school history, while 77 consecutive starts are eclipsed by just three others.
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 on Nov. 8 before he was selected to the early season watch list for the Naismith Trophy on Nov. 12. The preseason lists, which reflects the early frontrunners for two of college basketball’s Premier Player of the Year awards, is based on last year’s individual performance. McGruder becomes the first Wildcat named to the preseason list for both awards since Jacob Pullen was selected in 2010. He led the squad in 11 categories in 2011-12, including scoring (15.8 ppg.), double-figure scoring (28) and 3-point field goals (50). He was one of six Big 12 players selected to the Wooden list, which includes Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, Kansas’ Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey and OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash, while he was one of five 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. McGruder is the first Wildcat 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 (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 continued his improvement from his freshman season in 2012-13, as he ranks first or second on the squad in eight categories, including first in double-figure scoring games (seven), 3-point field goals (16), assists (44) and free throws (25) and second in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and field goals (33). He has helped the Wildcats rank third in the Big 12 in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, while he places in the league’s Top 20 in free throw percentage (83.3, 4th), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0, 5th), assists (4.4, 6th), 3-point field goals made (1.6, 10th), 3-point field goal percentage (34.0, 12th) and scoring (10.7 ppg., 20th). He has scored in double figures a team-best seven times, including a career-best 19 points vs. Lamar to go with game-highs at George Washington (17) on Dec. 8 and Gonzaga (14) on Dec. 15. Rodriguez was named to the NIT Season Tip-Off All-Tournament Team after averaging 11 points and 5.5 assists in two games at Madison Square Garden.
SPRADLING CLUTCH FROM THE LINE
Junior Will Spradling has been a model of consistency from the free throw line, knocking down 20-of-20 opportunities, including going 10-of-10 in the last 35 seconds in wins over Delaware, George Washington and Texas Southern. His effort has raised his career free throw percentage to 84.3 (145-of-172), which is the second-highest in school history behind Steve Henson (90.0; 361-of-401; 1986-90). Spradling has not only been stellar on the free throw line, but he ranks first in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), sixth in the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage (36.6), 10th in assists (3.0) and 13th in 3-point field goals made (1.5). He ranks third on the team in scoring at 8.7 points per game and has registered five double-figure scoring games (third on the team), including a season-high 14 vs. Lamar on Nov. 12 and 10 in the win at George Washington on Dec. 8.
GIPSON A FACTOR DOWN LOW
Sophomore Thomas Gipson is starting to emerge as the Wildcats’ go-to player in the post, averaging 7.8 points on 54.2 percent shooting (13-of-24) with 8.8 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game in the last four games. After a poor game against No. 14/14 Gonzaga on Dec. 15, he rebounded to collect arguably his best all-around game against Texas Southern on Tuesday night with a season-high 14 points on 5-of-7 field goals to go with 12 rebounds and career-bests in blocks (4) and steals (3) in 26 minutes. It marked his fourth career double-double, but the first of the season. The 12-rebound effort tied his season-high that he also had against George Washington on Dec. 8. The leader in rebounds at 7.1 per game, he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in overall rebounds, while his first in offensive rebounds at 3.4 per game. He snagged a career-best seven offensive boards vs. Texas Southern.
‘CATS ENJOY MEMORABLE TRIP TO BRAZIL
K-State got a jump start on its preparations for the 2012-13 season with its 10-day trip to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from Aug. 8-17, 2012. The NCAA allows teams to make a foreign trip once every four years, but this was the first since playing four games in British Columbia in 2004. More information on the Brazil trip can be found in the media guide on p. 24-25.
UP NEXT: VS. UMKC (4-7)
K-State returns from its weeklong holiday break on Saturday, Dec. 29, as the Wildcats play host to UMKC (4-7) at 6 p.m. It will be the first of two games in a three-day stretch for the squad to end the non-conference season, as they will host South Dakota on Dec. 31.