Kansas State guard Shane Southwell (1) and UMKC guard Estan Tyler (11) chase the loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Senior guard Rodney McGruder scored a game-high 17 points to help 25th-ranked Kansas State survive a defensive slugfest with Kansas City (UMKC), 52-44, before a sell-out crowd of 12,528 fans at Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday night.
Playing without starting point guard Angel Rodriguez and reserve point guard Martavious Irving, K-State (10-2) struggled offensively with a season-low 52 points on a season-low 32.1 percent shooting, including just 20 percent from 3-point range. However, the Wildcats showed its strength on defense, holding its sixth opponent to 55 points or less this season, while forcing UMKC (4-9, 1-1 Summit League) into 19 turnovers.
The victory gave the Wildcats' 10 non-conference wins for the seventh consecutive season.
The Wildcats jumped out quickly, taking a 20-9 advantage within the first nine minutes of the opening half after a pair of free throws by junior Omari Lawrence. However, the squad would score just five points the remainder of the half, connecting on just 2-of-16 field goals with eight straight misses at one point, to hold a 25-21 edge at halftime. McGruder led all scorers at the break with 10 points.
The second half didn't see much different, as the two teams combined for 16 field goals on nearly 50 attempts. K-State's lead was single digits for the entire half with Kansas City pulling with 36-34 with 9:16 to play and 39-36 with just over four minutes to play. However, the Wildcats used a 6-0 run over a two-minute stretch to push the advantage to 45-36 with just 2:19 to play before clinching the game at the free throw line.
The 96 combined points tied for the lowest by K-State and its opponent in the Big 12 era. K-State and Iowa State also combined for 96 in a Wildcat win (50-46) at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa on Feb. 21, 2009. It was also just four shy of the lowest combined points in K-State's shot clock era, which came in a pair of 47-45 wins over Nebraska in the 1987 and 1993 Big Eight Tournament in Kansas City.
Joining McGruder in double figures was sophomore Thomas Gipson, who chipped in 13 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes. Fellow sophomore Nino Williams corralled a career-best 13 rebounds to go with eight points and two assists in a career-best 32 minutes. Junior Will Spradling posted eight points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in 38 minutes. With Rodriguez and Irving out, Lawrence played a career-high 22 minutes with five points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists. McGruder also added five rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Kansas City was led by reserve Thomas Staton's 13 points, while Fred Chatmon added nine points and a game-high 16 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action.
K-State concludes non-conference play on Monday with a visit from Summit League foe South Dakota (6-8, 2-1 Summit) at 1 p.m. Tickets are still available through the Athletics Ticket Office for as low as $15 through the Wildcat 4 Pack, while groups of 12 or more can purchase tickets for just $10 each.