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January 19, 2013

BIG 12 MBB: K-State claws past OU, 69-60

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State finally got the better of its old coach.

Over the last decade, Lon Kruger has had the Wildcats' number. While coaching at Illinois, UNLV and now Oklahoma, Kruger's record against the Wildcats was 4-1.

Now it's 4-2.

Rodney McGruder scored 20 points and Will Spradling added 15 as No. 16 Kansas State defeated Oklahoma 69-60 on Saturday in a matchup of unbeaten Big 12 teams.

Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye both scored 12 points for Oklahoma.

Shane Southwell and Angel Rodriguez both added 12 points for Kansas State. Southwell had seven rebounds, and Rodriguez had nine assists. With four Wildcats scoring in double figures, McGruder was quick to credit everyone for the win.

"We're a team," McGruder said. "Not just one person can lead us to victory. We do this collectively. That's great. I'm proud of everyone who stepped up."

The Sooners (12-4, 3-1) kept pace with the Wildcats most of the way thanks to snagging 36 rebounds to Kansas State's 24. That would not be enough to counteract the damage done by turnovers; Oklahoma gave the ball away 16 times.

"Our dives, loose balls, deflections, those little things make a difference," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We made up for the lack of rebounding by getting those . 50-50 balls, or those energy kind of plays that you need."

Even so, Kansas State (15-2, 4-0) only got a double-digit lead in the second half. Oklahoma quickly responded with a 9-4 run that cut the Wildcats' lead to five points.

After turning the ball over just four times in the first half, Kansas State got whistled for a backcourt violation and a travel on consecutive possessions. Oklahoma took advantage of neither opportunity.

Instead, the Wildcats rallied from the series of mistakes with an 8-1 run that began with a contested 3 by Spradling and continued with a basket by Jordan Henriquez and McGruder's fourth 3 of the game. Free throws by Spradling gave Kansas State a 51-37 lead with 8:50 remaining.

With the Wildcats up 52-39 a few minutes later, Oklahoma went on a 9-2 run that included two baskets by Osby and a 3 by Steven Pledger, bringing the Sooners within 52-48.

Spradling promptly hit a long jumper to widen the gap to 55-48.

Rodriguez helped seal the deal in the closing minutes with a slashing layup in the paint and a 3 that put Kansas State up 61-52 with 2:25 left.

Down 66-56 with just under a minute to play, the Sooners resorted to fouling, and the Wildcats prevailed.

The game stayed close in the first half thanks to Oklahoma's rebounding and Kansas State's scoring off turnovers. The Sooners' 20-10 edge on the boards yielded 16 points in the paint in the first half, but the Wildcats offset that advantage by scoring 19 points off 11 Oklahoma turnovers.

"That's entirely because of Kansas State," Kruger said. "I thought their defense was outstanding."

The Sooners got as much separation as they ever would when Andrew Fitzgerald scored twice in the paint and was credited with two more points after a goaltending call. The sequence gave Oklahoma a 12-7 lead 6 minutes into the game.

Consecutive 3s by Spradling allowed Kansas State within 14-13 of Oklahoma midway through the first half.

"I really started to understand what they were trying to do to guard us, and it actually got real easy towards the end to read them on the screens," Spradling said. "With our bigs screening the way they did today, it was real easy to get open."

The Wildcats briefly took the lead after Rodriguez stole the ball and converted on a fastbreak layup.

The teams traded baskets, and then an emphatic dunk by Osby on an inbounds play gave the Sooners a 21-17 lead. Two free throws each by McGruder and Adrian Diaz tied the game.

The free throws were the first points for McGruder, but apparently those were enough to get him going. He proceeded to drain 3s on three straight possessions.

The Wildcats would go on to make 10 3s in the game.

"It's a difference-maker in the game when you study the stats because they had more field goals than us and overall they dominated the rebounds," Weber said. "If you run motion, you keep moving the ball, you keep spacing, it's going to get to the shooters, and finally we're starting to make some shots."

Following McGruder's trio of long-range shots, a dunk by Diaz and a 3 by Southwell gave Kansas State a 35-27 halftime lead.

Kansas State won't get to celebrate long. On Tuesday the Wildcats host No. 4 Kansas, their archrival and a perennial championship contender.

"It doesn't stop here," McGruder said. "We just better prepare for Kansas."

 

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