MANHATTAN, Kan. – A 26-point second half by Rodney McGruder and another career night from Nino Williams helped No. 25 Kansas State defeat No. 22 Oklahoma State, 73-67, on Saturday to open Big 12 Conference play.
The opening stanza saw a tight scoring affair between the two teams, with neither able to build a lead larger than six points. Thomas Gipson put K-State (12-2, 1-0) on the board first with a jumper for the game’s first points. Oklahoma State (10-3, 0-1) showed its athleticism with a Markel Brown highlight dunk. The Wildcats showed the same with an alley-oop dunk from Will Spradling to McGruder. The dunk was McGruder’s only points in the half.
The Cowboys would answer McGruder’s dunk immediately with a Marcus Smart thunderous dunk to give them a 12-10 lead. A 12-2 run by the Wildcats gave them their largest lead of the half at 24-18 after a steal by Angel Rodriguez and layup by Shane Southwell. OSU would battle back and go into halftime holding a slim, 32-30 lead. Thomas Gipson led the Wildcats with seven points in the half.
The second half saw McGruder take over for the Wildcats as the senior scored K-State’s first nine points of the half. Smart would hit two free throws to tie the game for the eighth time and knot the score at 45 apiece, but McGruder hit a crowd erupting 3-pointer and give the Wildcats the lead for good.
Williams was a spark off the bench for K-State, scoring another career-high 17 points, including nine straight and a monstrous dunk on a put-back to finish the night. McGruder finished with a season-high 28 points and five rebounds. The Wildcats are now 14-2 when he scores at least 20 points in his career.
The Wildcats bench depth proved to be the difference in yet another game, this time outscoring the Cowboy reserves, 27-11. K-State also converted 12 offensive rebounds into 18 points and limited OSU to only five offensive rebounds for only four second chance points.
The win over the Cowboys marks the first conference opening win for the Wildcats, since the 2007-08 season when K-State defeated Oklahoma, 84-82, on January 12, 2008.
Saturday’s contest also was only the third time in the 120-game history of the series in which both teams were ranked. The last time K-State and Oklahoma State tangled with both teams ranked among the best in the nation was the 1958 NCAA Midwest Regional Championship when the Wildcats won 69-57 to advance to the Final Four.
K-State begins a two-game road stretch, with a trip to Morgantown to face West Virginia on Saturday followed by a trip to Fort Worth for a matchup with new conference foe, TCU. Tipoff for the West Virginia game is 12:30 p.m. and can be seen live on the Big 12 Network.