Kansas City- K-State hadn’t won a Big 12 Championship game since they made the finals in 2010. Rodney McGruder made sure that streak ended Thursday night in Kansas City.
Rodney McGruder dominate the Longhorns all night, in route of a K-State 66-49 victory in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship
“It’s a good win. We’ve talked about Texas, how much improvement they’ve made over the last stretch, with Kabongo back, changes their team, and I think they’re 6‑3, since he got back. And since we played them they were 4‑1, and basically beat the same teams, most of the same team, Oklahoma State, along that stretch. We knew we had a game. When we saw the big lineup, we thought they would play zone.” Said K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber.
Weber was right. Texas, (16-17, 7-11) stayed in a 2-3 zone all night long in an attempt to keep K-State out of the paint. It worked, for a while anyways.
Texas jumped out to an early 7-1 lead, and looked ready to give the No. 11 K-State Wildcats a game. But Angel Rodriguez hit two three pointers to lead K-State on a 14-2 lead to give the cats a 15-9 lead of their own, and they never looked back.
Despite only taking a 34-28 lead into halftime, K-State never seemed to be truly threatened by Texas. Especially McGruder.
McGruder put together a 1st team all Big 12 performance, scoring 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
“The shots that I took today where open shots. And I was fortunate enough to make half of them. And Angel found me a couple of times on the break and on the wing. So I just gotta thank my teammates for finding me tonight.” McGruder said in the post game interview.
K-State put the game to bed with 9 minutes remaining in the second half when McGruder buried a three pointer to beat the shot clock, and then quickly laid the ball in again 20 seconds later in transition to put K-State up 18.
With Thomas Gipson in foul trouble, and Jordan Henriquez struggling with a back injury, it was Freshman DJ Johnson who was the start big man for K-State.
In 15 minutes of action, Johnson was a perfect 4-4 from the field, scoring 8 points and grabbed 7 rebounds to tie McGruder for the team high.
“Omari went in a couple minutes, Nino went in a couple minutes, but D.J., Darrell Johnson, who was good in the year and he always gives us a minute or two, but he was huge for us. So that was great. With J.O.’s (Henriquez) back kind of struggling, we needed somebody with Thomas in foul trouble. And like we have all year, somebody stepped up, and Darrell was definitely the difference maker tonight.” said K-State Head coach Bruce Weber in the postgame.
With the win, K-State progresses to the Big 12 Championship semi finals on Friday night at 9:00 where they will take on Oklahoma State.