Bruce Weber has been in the middle of some intense rivalries during his career.
The coach of No. 11 Kansas State remembers one time, as an assistant on Gene Keady's staff at Purdue, the Boilermakers visited highly-ranked Indiana coached by Bob Knight. Their bus in Bloomington was surrounded by happy Hoosiers, and they needed a police escort to get through.
Before taking over the Wildcats, Weber was the coach of Illinois and went through several knock-down, drag-out fights with Missouri, the Fighting Illini's bitter border rival.
So he knows something about big-time rivalries.
He'll get his first real taste of Kansas State's most heated one Tuesday night.
That's when his Wildcats, at 15-2 and 4-0 in the Big 12, welcome third-ranked Kansas to Bramlage Coliseum. The Jayhawks have won a nation-leading 15 straight games, are 16-1 and also 4-0 in the Big 12, which means first place in the conference will be on the line.
''It's one of the things that is most brought up. There's no doubt about that,'' Weber said of the simmering rivalry. ''I told the guys it's important, but it's important because we're in first place, and they're at No. 2 (in the) RPI. That's why it's really important.''
Kansas State isn't far behind in the RPI, a measure used by the NCAA selection committee to help seed teams come March. And that makes this match-up one of the biggest in years.
The last time the teams approached a game of this magnitude at Bramlage Coliseum was in January 2010, when the 11th-ranked Wildcats lost 81-79 to No. 2 Kansas in overtime. They played again that March, and the second-ranked Jayhawks beat the fifth-ranked Wildcats 82-65.
Only two other times since 1958 have both teams been ranked during a regular-season game.
''The thing that really makes a rivalry is when you beat each other, you go back and forth,'' Weber said. ''That's what really makes it a rivalry.''
By that definition, the Sunflower Showdown hasn't been much of a rivalry lately.
The Jayhawks, the eight-time and defending Big 12 champions, have won 44 of the last 47 meetings, and they're an unheard-of 22-2 in Bramlage Coliseum since it opened in 1987.
''It's a first-place game in the Big 12, and that's something I haven't played for,'' said the Wildcats' Will Spradling, a junior from Overland Park, Kan. ''Since I was here we've always been in that third and fourth range. Now we're up in first place.''
Indeed, Kansas State's eight-game winning streak is its best since winning 10 in a row from November 2009 through January 2010, and they've won 12 straight at home dating to last season.
Expected? Not really.
The Jayhawks, on the other hand, were a unanimous pick to win another Big 12 title. They haven't lost since playing Michigan State in their second game of the season, and they're off to a 16-1 start - or better - for the third time in the last four seasons.
All of that was assumed, more or less.
The road to a perfect Big 12 start hasn't been smooth as glass, though. The Jayhawks needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Ben McLemore to force overtime in a win over Iowa State, and then scuffled offensively in lackluster victories over Texas Tech and Baylor.
On Saturday, they needed to storm back from an 11-point deficit to beat Texas 64-59.
''It was tough, but we have a pretty mature team that continues to grind through,'' said the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey, who had 14 points and nine rebounds in the win. ''We've been in these kinds of situations before, so knew that we would be able to come back.''
The Jayhawks, who are averaging just below 62 points in their last three games, are picking a lousy opponent to try to snap out of an offensive funk.
Kansas State has only allowed two of its last six opponents to score more than 60 points.
''We were trying to catch up too fast, and their pressure bothered us,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said, when asked why his team struggled early in the second half against the Longhorns.
''Then when we settled down, and even though we didn't get an offensive flow, we got to the free-throw line. We did the things that we should do to give us a chance to win on the road.''
The same kinds of things that it will take to win another road game Tuesday night.
Kansas State students will be back on campus following their winter break, and some of them will have camped out overnight in frigid temperatures for a front-row seat Tuesday night.
They'll pour into the dimly lit confines of Bramlage Coliseum the minute the doors opening, and spend 90 minutes working themselves into a lather before the ball is thrown up at center court for one of the most eagerly anticipated Sunflower Showdowns in years.
''Everybody's excited knowing that we're playing Kansas at home,'' said Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez. ''Everybody's going to come out. We're winning. We're doing really good things and the eyes are on us right now. I don't think a lot of people predicted us to be 4-0 in conference, so we'll come out and see what Bramlage looks like in the next 48 hours.''
K-State game notes:
No. 11/13 Kansas State (15-2, 4-0 Big 12) vs. No. 3/2 Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12)
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 * 7:05 p.m. CT
Manhattan, Kan. * Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)
Television: Big 12 Network (ESPN Full Court)
Dave Armstrong (play-by-play); Fran Fraschilla (analyst)
Channels: KSHB (Kansas City), KMTW (Wichita), KSNT (Topeka)
Internet: www.ESPN3.com and WatchESPN
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 91/XM 91
Live Stats: http://www.kstatesports.com/multimedia/ksu-gt-live-stats.html
Live Audio: http://www.k-statesports.com/allaccess (free)
Twitter Updates: twitter.com/kstate_gameday
vs. Big 12: K-State leads 440-449 (241-161 at home)
vs. Kansas: Kansas leads 182-91 (74-45 at home)
Last Meeting: Kansas won 59-53 (2/13/2012)
11/13 Kansas State (15-2, 4-0 Big 12)
Head coach: Bruce Weber (Wisconsin-Milwaukee ‘78)
School Record: 15-2 (1st season) * Career Record: 328-157 (15th season) * vs. Kansas: 0-1
3/2 Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12)
Head coach: Bill Self (Kansas State ‘75)
School Record: 285-54 (10th season) * Career Record: 492-159 (20th season) * vs. K-State: 19-3
No. 11/13 Kansas State (15-2, 4-0 Big 12) concludes its brief two-game homestand on Tuesday, as the Wildcats welcome state rival and No. 3/2 Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12) for a battle of first-place teams in the Big 12 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big 12 Network with Dave Armstrong (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst) on the call. Riding a season-long eight-game winning streak, the Wildcats are 4-0 in Big 12 play for just the second time since the league’s inception in 1997 and for the first time since the 2007-08 team won its first five conference contests. The overall eight-game winning streak is the longest since the team won 10 in a row from Nov. 21, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010. Overall, K-State has posted 14 winning streaks of at least five games (including a 10-game streak from Nov. 21, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010) in the last seven seasons. The Wildcats are 11-0 at home this season, including a 10-0 mark at Bramlage Coliseum, and have won 12 straight at home dating back to last season. The 11-game winning streak ties for fourth-longest in the arena’s 25-year history, including the longest since K-State rattled off 14 consecutive wins (ties for the longest) from Jan. 15, 2011 to Jan. 7, 2012. Tuesday’s game will be the 274th meeting of the Sunflower Showdown presented by Dillons, including the 120th contested in Manhattan. It will be just the 16th time that teams have met when both are ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, including the 12th occasion when both are ranked among the nation’s Top 15.
Tuesday’s contest will be the fourth of eight games on the Big 12 Network. The league television package can be seen locally on KSHB-TV in Kansas City, KMTW-TV in Wichita and KSNT-TV in Topeka. The game can also seen in the Big 12 region on KTXA-TV in Dallas, KTVI-TV in St. Louis, KOCB-TV in Oklahoma City, KMYT-TV in Tulsa, KPTM-TV in Omaha, KUBE-TV in Houston and KCWX-TV in San Antonio. All games on the Big 12 Network can be found on ESPN Full Court as well as ESPN3.com.
K-STATE IN THE POLLS
K-State is ranked in both major polls, jumping five spots in The Associated Press Top 25 poll to No. 11 and moving five spots in the USA Today Coaches poll to No. 13. It marks the fifth straight week that the Wildcats have been ranked in the AP poll, while the No. 11 ranking is the highest in the AP poll since also placing 11th on Dec. 20, 2010. The program has now been ranked at least one week in each of the last four years, which had not happened since doing it six straight years from 1972-78.
No. 4/4 Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12) is riding a Big 12-best 15-game winning streak, including four straight in Big 12 play, since losing its first and only game against Michigan State (67-64) on Nov. 13. The Jayhawks are averaging 76 points on a Big 12-best 48.4 percent shooting, including 36.5 percent from 3-point range, while holding opponents to 59.3 points on 34.8 percent shooting, including 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. A balanced team with seven players averaging five or more points, redshirt freshman Ben McLemore paces three players in double figures with a 16.4 points per game average on 50.8 percent shooting, including 44.4 percent from 3-point range. Senior Jeff Withey leads the team in rebounding (8.2 rpg.) and blocked shots (4.6 bpg.) to go with a 13.1 points per game average, while senior Travis Releford averages 12.9 points on a team-best 61.3 percent shooting. Head coach Bill Self is eight wins shy of 500 wins for his career, including a stellar 285-54 (.841) mark in 10 seasons at Kansas.
LAST MEETING: 4/5 KANSAS 59, KANSAS STATE 53 [FEB. 13, 2012]
No. 4/5 Kansas won a defensive battle over K-State, 59-53, as both teams shot below 40 percent from the field in their last meeting on Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. Both squads had three players in double figures with the Wildcats led by senior Jamar Samuels (20) and the Jayhawks paced by Tyshawn Taylor (20). Jeff Withey nearly posted a triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine rebounds, while Rodney McGruder (12) and Will Spradling (10) also registered double-digits in the contest.
This will be the 274th meeting between K-State and Kansas with the Jayhawks holding a 182-91 edge in a series that dates back to 1907. The Jayhawks are one of just two Big 12 teams (Oklahoma) to hold a series advantage over the Wildcats. Kansas is 74-45 all-time in games played in Manhattan, including a 23-2 mark at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats have won just three times (2006, 2008 and 2011) in the last 39 meetings of the Big 12 era, however, two of the wins (2008 and 2011) have come at home. Head coach Bruce Weber is 0-1 all-time against Kansas, while he is 1-2 against teams coached by Bill Self.
QUICKLY ON KANSAS STATE
--Kansas State’s 15-2 start ties eight other teams (1916-17, 1918-19, 1947-48, 1950-51, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1961-62 and 2009-10) for the best start to a season in the school history and is the best since the 2009-10 team also produced a 15-2 start. The 4-0 start to Big 12 play is just the second since the league’s inception in 1997 and the first since the 2007-08 team won its first five conference contests. The Wildcats are in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season and first eight-game winning streak since winning 10 in a row from Nov. 21, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010. The team’s two losses are to Top 10 teams in current No. 2/2 Michigan and No. 10/10 Gonzaga. The team faced 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. K-State posted double-digit non-conference games for the seventh straight season, including its first regular-season Top 10 non-conference win (No. 8 Florida) since 1981.
--Bruce Weber’s 15-2 record ties Zora Clevenger (1916-17) for the best start by a first-year K-State head coach in the program’s 109-year history. The best campaign by a first-year head 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. The current eight-game winning streak ties for the second-longest by a first-year head coach in school history and is the longest since Clevenger’s 1916-17 squad ended the year with 13 consecutive wins from Jan. 25 to March 6, 1917. Clevenger made most of his impact on the gridiron, where he was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and was the founder of the East-West Shrine game.
--K-State is having a stellar start to the 2012-13 athletics season, as the Wildcats have one of the best records among BCS schools when combining football and men’s and women’s basketball. As of Wednesday, the school’s 37 wins tie for 16th nationally and its .771 winning percentage (37-11) places 13th. K-State is one of 16 BCS schools (along with Big 12 brethren Oklahoma) with 35+ combined wins among its three major sports. The football team produced just its second regular-season 11-win season and advanced to a BCS game (Fiesta Bowl) for the first time in eight years. If you take into account the success of the volleyball team, which won 20 matches and advanced to NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are 58-20 (.744) since August 24.
--Ten of the 17 games have been at home (including a home game vs. No. 8/9 Florida in Kansas City’s Sprint Center), where the Wildcats have won 12 straight dating back to last season (including 11 in a row at Bramlage Coliseum). The 11-game winning streak is the fourth-longest (Feb. 23, 2005 to Jan. 11, 2006; Dec. 9, 2007 to Feb. 25, 2008; March 4, 2008 to Jan. 10, 2009) in the arena’s 25-year history, including the longest since K-State rattled off 14 consecutive wins (ties for the longest) from Jan. 15, 2011 to Jan. 7, 2012. The school extended its non-conference home winning streak to 48 with a win over South Dakota Dec. 31.
--K-State received its first national ranking of the season on Dec. 24, appearing at No. 25 in The Associated Press Top 25 with 152 points, and jumped five spots to No. 11 (with 927 points) in the latest poll on Jan. 21. The No. 11 ranking is the highest since also checking in at No. 11 on Dec. 20, 2010. In addition, the squad moved to No. 13 in the USA Today Coaches poll after placing at No. 18 on Jan. 14. K-State has now been ranked in the AP poll at least one week in each of the last four seasons, a feat which has not happened since doing it six consecutive seasons from 1972-78. The Wildcats have a 244-91 (.728) all-time record as a ranked team since first being ranked in 1949-50, including a 4-2 (.667) mark as the No. 11 team in The Associated Press poll.
--K-State ranks in the Top 50 in eight categories nationally, including seventh in 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.4), 12th in offensive rebounds (14.9), 24th in assists (16.1), 29th in rebounding margin (+6.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and 35th in rebounding (38.9) and scoring margin (+12.0). Will Spradling ranks 14th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0). The Wildcats rank in the Top 5 in 18 of 21 Big 12 categories, including first in assist-to-turnover ratio, turnover margin and
rebounding defense and second in scoring defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense, assists and offensive rebounds. In Big 12-only games, the squad ranks first in field goal percentage (47.0), 3-point field goal percentage (40.5), turnover margin (+3.0) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5), while is in the Top 5 in 13 of 21 conference-only statistics.
--K-State is 3-0 in true road games this season after winning contests at George Washington (65-62) on Dec. 8 and West Virginia (65-64) on Jan. 12 and TCU (67-54) on Jan. 16. The squad has won six consecutive road games, including five in a row in Big 12 play, dating back to last season, which is the longest since K-State rattled off six straight road wins (all in Big 12 play) from Jan. 16 to Feb. 23, 2010. The Wildcats have improved their play on the road in the Big 12, posting a 26-24 record over the past seven seasons (which began in 2006-07) after winning just 10 of 80 road games in the league’s first 10 years (1997-2006).
--The Wildcats have been one of the best first-half defensive teams, holding its 17 opponents to just 24.6 points on 37.4 percent shooting, including 26.5 percent from 3-point range. It has held four opponents to 20 points or less in the first half. In contrast, the squad is allowing 32.6 points in the second half on 41.7 percent shooting, including 28.2 percent from beyond the arc.
--Saturday’s meeting with Oklahoma marked the 10th time K-State has faced a former head coach (Tex Winter, Lon Kruger and Bob Huggins) with the Wildcats winning for just the third time (including the second time this season) in those occurrences.
Prior to wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma, the last win over a former coach came in a 95-80 win over a Kruger-coached UNLV squad on Dec. 12, 2009. The team will play at least two more such games (at Oklahoma on Feb. 2 and West Virginia at home on Feb. 18) this season. K-State lost twice to Winter (Washington in 1971 and Long Beach State in 1978), while the Wildcats are now 3-4 against Kruger in his stops at Texas-Pan American (1986), Illinois (1999), UNLV (2009, 2010) and Oklahoma (2012, 2013) and 1-1 against Huggins at West Virginia (2011, 2013). Interestingly enough, the Wildcats are 6-0 against head coaches prior to them coming to K-State. The school went 1-0 against Winter at Marquette (1953), 3-0 against Jack Hartman at Southern Illinois (1964, 1968 and 1969), 1-0 against Kruger at Texas-Pan American (1986) and 1-0 against Huggins at Akron (1988).
--The 67-61 win over No. 8/9 Florida in the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic on Dec. 22 was the first regular-season, non-conference Top 10 victory since knocking off No. 8 Minnesota at home, 62-52, on Dec. 21, 1981. Overall, it was just the 12th non-conference Top 10 win in school history (and the first since defeating No. 3 Purdue, 73-70, and then assistant coach Bruce Weber on March 25, 1988 in the NCAA Tournament), including the seventh in the regular season. Aside from Minnesota in 1981 and Florida in 2012, the Wildcats have also beaten No. 4 Long Island (85-65) on Jan. 31, 1951, No. 7 Notre Dame (80-64) on Dec. 19, 1952, No. 4 N.C. State (69-67) on Dec. 19, 1958, No. 5 North Carolina (77-69) on Dec. 16, 1960 and No. 9 St. John’s (63-50) on Dec. 16, 1961.
--K-State had a tremendous semester in the classroom, as the team had a cumulative 2.839 GPA (the highest in 12 years) during the Fall 2012 semester. A program-best eight players - Adrian Diaz, Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez, Brian Rohleder, Ryan Schultz, Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Nino Williams - were named to the Fall Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll on Jan. 9. Rohleder was one of 31 student-athletes to post a perfect 4.0 GPA during the semester.
K-State has proven to be a balanced team across the board with seven players averaging five or more points, including just one in double figures, and six averaging three or more rebounds per game. Senior Rodney McGruder (15.5 ppg.) is the only Wildcat to average in double figures (ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring), while five others - Angel Rodriguez (9.2 ppg.), Will Spradling (8.6 ppg.), Shane Southwell (7.4 ppg.), Thomas Gipson (7.1ppg.) and Nino Williams (6.1 ppg.) - are averaging better than six points per contest. The team has seen nine players collect 45 double-digit scoring games with McGruder (13) leading the way, while the squad has seven players with 30 or more field goals made with McGruder’s 104 makes tops in the Big 12. Only West Virginia (10) has more players with double-digit scoring efforts in the Big 12 (TCU also has nine players with 10+ points), while only Iowa State (eight) has more players with 30 or more field goals (West Virginia also has seven players wth 30+ field goals made). In all, the Wildcats have had six players lead or share the lead in scoring led by McGruder (nine). Gipson (5.9 rpg.) paces the squad in rebounding despite leading in a game just four times, while McGruder (5.2 rpg.), Jordan Henriquez (4.8 rpg.) and Nino Williams (4.6 rpg.) are averaging better than four rebounds per game. The team has had eight players either lead or share the lead in rebounding with Gipson leading four times and Henriquez, McGruder and Williams doing it three times.
The Wildcats have also been diverse in other categories, including seven players with double-digit assists and six with double-digit steals. Rodriguez has dished out a team-best 69 assists with six players either leading or sharing the lead in assists. McGruder has a team-best 20 steals, while eight have either led or shared the lead in steals. Four players -- McGruder (31.5 mpg.), Spradling (30.7), Rodriguez (23.7) and Southwell (21.5) -- are each averaging more than 20 minutes, while seven others are averaging double-digit minutes. Seven players have at least one start with only McGruder and Spradling starting all 17.
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 seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.4), 16th in scoring defense (57.3), 29th in rebounding margin (+6.8), 35th in rebounding (38.9) and 54th in field goal percentage defense (39.6). In all, the Wildcats rank either first or second in four Big 12 defensive categories, including first in turnover margin and rebounding defense and second in scoring defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin. The team is fourth in field goal percentage defense.
The 974 points surrendered through the first 17 games are the fewest in the shot clock era (1985-86) and the fewest since the 1982-83 squad allowed just 902 points (53.1 ppg.) through the first 17 games. The team has held 13 of its 17 opponents to 65 points or less, including eight to 55 points or less, while seven have been held to under 40 percent shooting and four to under 20 percent shooting from 3-point range. 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. The Wildcats are out-scoring their opponents, 280-188 (an average of 16.5 points per game), through the first 17 games in points off of turnovers. The squad has posted 10 or more points off of miscues in 14 of 17 games, including 20 or more points on four occasions, with a season-best 34 vs. Lamar on Nov. 12. The team has scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games (out-scoring TCU and Oklahoma, 46-12). They are 12-0 when scoring more points off of turnovers.
K-State is forcing its opponents into 14.9 turnovers per game (third-most in the Big 12), including a season-high 26 by Lamar, while turning the ball over an average of 12.4 times per game (lowest in the Big 12). The 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 29th and first in the Big 12 with Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez boasting the league’s top-2 assist-to-turnover ratios with Spradling ranking 17th nationally. In Martin’s five seasons, the Wildcats averaged 18.2 points per game off of turnovers. Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in that period came off of offense generated from miscues. 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 tie for 35th nationally in rebounding (38.9), including 12th in offensive rebounds (14.9), and 29th in rebounding margin (+6.8). The team ranks second in the Big 12 in rebounding margin and fifth in rebounding, while they rank second in offensive rebounds to West Virginia (15.2).
Overall, the Wildcats have out-rebounded their foes by a 662-546 margin, including 254-181 on the offensive end. The squad is 14-0 this season when out-rebounding its opponent. K-State has at least 10 offensive rebounds in 15 of 17 games, including 20 or more on three occasions, with a season-high 29 against North Florida on Nov. 18. Sophomore Thomas Gipson (5.9 rpg.) ranks 13th in the league in overall rebounding, while he is third (2.8) and sophomore Nino Williams is 14th (2.2) in offensive rebounds (2.8). The team has collected 40+ rebounds in seven games, including a season-best 55 vs. UAH on Nov. 13. The Wildcats grabbed 42 defensive rebounds vs. UAH, which ties for the second-most in school history and are the most since 1998.
The Wildcats have taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 29.4 points in the paint and 14.2 points off of second-chance opportunities. The team has at least 30 points in the paint in nine games, including a season-high 46 vs. Texas Southern on Dec. 18, while it has tallied at least 14 second-chance points nine times with a season-best 23 vs. USC Upstate.
Adding to the K-State’s balanced attack is the production it’s getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 22.6 points, including a 385-266 edge over opponents. The team has collected at least 20 points from its bench in 10 of 17 games, including a season-high 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 against North Dakota and Delaware and Shane Southwell leading the way with a career-best 16 points vs. Alabama-Huntsville. Nino Williams posted a career-high 17 points off the bench in the win over No. 22/21 Oklahoma State. The rebounding leader has come from the bench in eight games with D.J. Johnson posting a 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, Gipson tying Will Spradling for the rebounding lead (6) vs. Delaware, Williams snagging seven boards vs. No. 8/9 Florida and Jordan Henriquez posting the team-high against West Virginia and TCU. Over 40 percent (280) of the team’s rebounding total and nearly 35 percent (395) of the scoring total has come from the bench.
Although K-State ranks 35th nationally in scoring margin (+12.0), the Wildcats have experience with close games this season, posting an 8-0 record in games decided by 10 points or less and a 5-0 mark in games decided by six points or less, including three of its four Big 12 wins. The Wildcats have knocked down 67.4 percent (60-of-89) from the free throw line in the last five minutes of games, including 69.8 percent (44-of-63) in the last five minutes of these eight close games. Junior Will Spradling, who went 10-of-10 in the last 35 seconds in wins over Delaware (66-63), George Washington (65-62) and Texas Southern (78-69), paces the team in both free throws (19) and free throw attempts (24) in the last five minutes of games. Junior Omari Lawrence (6-of-6), senior Rodney McGruder (8-of-10), junior Shane Southwell (8-of-10) and sophomore Angel Rodriguez (9-of-12) have all been solid in the last five minutes of games. In the 65-64 win over West Virginia on Jan. 12, Southwell knocked down two free throws in the last 21 seconds and also blocked the game-winning shot with just one second left.
HEATING UP FROM BEYOND THE ARC
K-State is starting to find more of an offensive rhythm from the 3-point range, where the Wildcats rank first in 3-point field goal percentage (32-of-79, .405) and second in 3-point field goals made (8.0) after four Big 12 games. The team combined to knock down just 34.2 percent (13-of-38) from beyond the arc against Oklahoma State and West Virginia in the first two league games, but have rebounded to shoot 46.3 percent (19-of-41) in its last two outings against TCU and Oklahoma. Rodney McGruder ranks first in Big 12 games in 3-point field goals (3.8) and is third in 3-point field goal percentage (48.4), while Shane Southwell is second in percentage (54.5) and 13th in makes (1.5) in league-only games. Will Spradling is tied for 15th in 3-pointers (1.3).
PROTECTING THE BALL
K-State has been solid protecting the ball this season, as the squad ranks first in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and turnover margin (+2.5). Thus far, the Wildcats have produced 12.4 turnovers per game (ties for lowest average in Big 12), while forcing its foes into an average of 14.9 turnovers (third-most in the Big 12). The team has 14 or fewer miscues in 12 games,while they have forced their foes into 19 or more turnovers four times, including a season-high 26 by Lamar on Nov. 12.
MORE ON BALL PROTECTION
Seven 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 197 assists to 87 turnovers (2.26 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 (3.0) and Rodriguez (2.2) rank first and second, respectively, in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, while Spradling places 17th nationally. Spradling, who has 54 assists to just 18 turnovers, led the team with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio a season ago, while Rodriguez has made a notable improvement (69 assists to 32 turnovers) in the area after posting a 1.2 ratio (101 assists to 85 turnovers) as a freshman. Irving has also doubled his ratio (2.5 from 1.5) with 40 assists to 16 turnovers, while Southwell has a solid 1.6 ratio (34 assists to 21 turnovers) after posting the same 1.6 ratio last season.
McGRUDER AMONG ELITE COMPANY
Senior Rodney McGruder (1,293 points & 555 rebounds) joined elite company against South Dakota on Dec. 31, as he became the sixth Wildcat in school history with at least 1,200 points and 500 rebounds in a career. Rolando Blackman (1,844 points & 607 rebounds), Bob Boozer (1,685 points & 824 rebounds), Cartier Martin (1,546 points & 546 rebounds), Ed Nealy (1,304 points & 1,069 rebounds) and Jamar Samuels (1,259 points & 716 rebounds). He is just seven points shy of 1,300 career points and 12 points short of cracking the school’s Top 10 scoring list, while he places in the Top 10 in nine career categories, including consecutive starts (84, 3rd), 3-point field goals (163, 5th), 3-point field goal percentage (39.1%, 6th), 3-point field goals attempted (417, 7th), minutes (3,072, 7th), starts (84, 8th), consecutive games (93, 9th), field goals (468, 9th) and games (117, 10th). He is just outside the career Top 10 double-digit scoring games (70) and steals (92). He ranks first in scoring in Big 12-only games (21.5 ppg.) and is third in overall scoring (15.5 ppg.), while he leads the team in scoring, field goals (104), double-digit scoring games (13) and steals (20). He ranks in the Top 20 in five Big 12 categories, including scoring (3rd), field goal percentage (6th), 3-point field goal percentage (9th), 3-point field goals (10th) and minutes (31.5). In addition to being first in scoring in league-only games, he is first in 3-point field goals (3.8) and third in field goal percentage (53.2) and 3-point field goal percentage (48.4)
McGRUDER NAMED PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK for FOURTH TIME
Senior Rodney McGruder earned Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the fourth time in seven weeks on Monday after helping K-State run its winning streak to eight games last week. McGruder’s four Big 12 Player of the Week awards break his tie with Michael Beasley (three, 2007-08) for the most by a Wildcat in a single-season, while McGruder’s five overall weekly awards are the most-ever by a K-State player in the Big 12 era. He first won the weekly honor as a junior on Dec. 26, 2011 then this season on Dec. 10 and 24, 2012 and again on Jan. 7. McGruder posted back-to-back 20-point outings for the first time this season, as he averaged a team-best 20.5 points on 55.6 percent shooting (15-of-27), including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from 3-point range, with 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 36 minutes per game in wins over TCU and Oklahoma. He has now scored in double figures in eight consecutive games with an average of 19.5 points per game. McGruder opened the week with a 21-point effort in a road win at TCU, as he knocked down 9-of-15 field goals, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, with five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 32 minutes. He followed with his fifth 20-point outing of the season in a win over Oklahoma, as he went 6-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, with three assists and one steal in playing all 40 minutes. It was his 17th and 18th 20-point games of his career with the Wildcats posting an impressive 16-2 mark in those contests.
SOUTHWELL’s JUMP IN PRODUCTION
Junior Shane Southwell has made quite the jump in his productivity in year three, as he averages 7.4 points on 51.9 percent shooting, including 48.5 percent from 3-point range, with 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 21.5 minutes per game with eight starts in 15 games played. That production has been even more of factor during the team’s eight-game winning streak, as he is averaging 8.4 points on 49 percent shooting, including 45 percent from 3-point range, with 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.6 minutes per game in eight starts. Southwell had a huge game in the win against West Virginia on Jan. 12, as he knocked down two free throws in the last 21 seconds to give the Wildcats the lead then blocked the game-winning shot with just one second remaining. His 17 points were a career-high against the Mountaineers, while he added 12 points against Oklahoma to give him double-digit points for the eighth time in his career (all K-State wins), including the fourth time this season. He entered the 2012-13 campaign averaging just 2.5 points on 36.1 percent shooting, including 25 percent from 3-point range, with 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 14.8 minutes per game with 62 games played and 19 starts during his two-year career.
RODRIGUEZ’S IMPROVED PLAY
Despite missing the last two non-conference games, sophomore Angel Rodriguez has continued his improvement from his freshman season in 2012-13, as he ranks first or second on the squad in six categories, including first in assists (69) and second in scoring (9.2 ppg.) and double-figure scoring games (8). He has helped the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin and second in assists, while he places in the league’s Top 15 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2, 2nd), assists (4.6, 5th), steals (1.3, 13th) and 3-point field goals (1.3, 15th). He has scored in double figures eight times, including a career-best 19 points vs. Lamar to go with game-highs at George Washington (17) and Gonzaga (14). He nearly tallied his first career double-double in the win over Oklahoma with 12 points and a career-high nine assists. He was named to the NIT Season Tip-Off All-Tournament Team after averaging 11 points and 5.5 assists in two games in New York, as the team finished in second place.
SPRADLING COMING UP CLUTCH
Junior Will Spradling has been a model of consistency from the free throw line, knocking down 33-of-38 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 82.9 (160-of-193), 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 17th nationally and first in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0). He also places ninth in the Big 12 in assists (3.2 apg.). He ranks first on the team in 3-point field goals (26), second in double-digit scoring games (8) and assists (54) and third in scoring (8.6 ppg.) and steals (17), which includes a season-high 17 points in the win over No. 8/9 Florida on Dec. 22. After combining for just three points on 11.1 percent shooting (1-of-9), including 0-of-6 from 3-point range, in the first two Big 12 games, he has 21 points (10.5 ppg.) on 58.3 percent shooting (7-of-12), including 55.6 percent (5-of-9 ) from beyond the arc, in the last two league contests.
WILLIAMS EMERGING AS A IMPACT
After playing in just 15 games his first season (including a medical redshirt in 2010-11), sophomore Nino Williams is starting to emerge as an impact player for K-State. He has played in 16 of 17 games with the third-most starts (11), averaging 6.1 points on 44.7 percent shooting (42-of-94) with 4.6 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game. He is fourth in field goals (42) and rebounding (4.6 rpg.), while he is one of six players to average more than six points per game. He had career week in wins against South Dakota and No. 22/21 Oklahoma State, in which, he averaged 16.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting (14-of-21) with 6.0 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. He opened with a career-best 16 points vs. South Dakota on 7-of-10 field goals before eclipsing that mark with 17 points off the bench against OSU on 7-of-11 field goals. If you include the Kansas City game on Dec. 29, he is averaging 13.7 points on 51.5 percent shooting with 8.3 rebounds in three of the last six games in 25.7 minutes per game.
GIPSON A FACTOR DOWN LOW
Sophomore Thomas Gipson is starting to emerge as the Wildcats’ go-to player in the post, averaging 6.5 points on 50 percent shooting (25-of-50) with 5.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game in his last 11 starts. After a poor game against No. 14/14 Gonzaga on Dec. 15, he rebounded to collect arguably his best all-around game of the season vs. Texas Southern on Dec. 18 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 5.9 per game, he ranks 14th in the Big 12 in overall rebounds, while his third in offensive rebounds at 2.8 per game. He had a career-best seven offensive boards vs. Texas Southern.
McGRUDER NAMED PRESEASON CANDIDATE FOR NAISMITH, WOODEN AWARDS
Senior Rodney McGruder was 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 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.
RECAPPING THE 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 in Brazil 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 (4.8 rpg.).
UP NEXT: AT IOWA STATE (13-4, 3-1 Big 12)
K-State heads back on the road on Saturday, as the Wildcats travel to Iowa State (13-4, 3-1 Big 12) for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff.