Manhattan, KS– Angel Rodriguez is clutch. With just over 5 seconds remaining in Saturdays tilt against Oklahoma, Rodriguez went to the line with a chance to give K-State a lead over the Oklahoma Sooners. Cool, calm, and collected Rodriguez buried both. The 52-50 victory over Oklahoma, coupled with KU’s upset at home, has breathed new life into the K-State Wildcats. Here are 5 things we learned from Saturday’s victory.
1.) More than just McGruder- In what has now been a theme in the past 2 games, K-State has proven they can win games without the scoring of Rodney McGruder. Against Texas and Oklahoma, McGruder picked up 2 early fouls that benched him for the majority of the first half. Jr. Will Spradling also picked up 2 early fouls and was out for the majority of the 1st half. Even without the Cats 2 main scoring options, they were able to score and maintain a lead over Oklahoma. Martavious Irving was the main spark plug coming off the bench. Irving poured in 10 points, including 2 3 pointers to supply K-State with some key bench scoring.
2.) Defense, Defense, Defense- If we learned anything from Saturday’s performance, it was what the Cats sometimes lack in offense, they make up for in defense. For the 2nd team in as many weeks, K-State held a team to its lowest offensive output of the season. Even more impressive, with Spradling and McGruder benched, K-State held Oklahoma scoreless for a 10 minute stretch from the 6:27 mark of the first half, to the 15:43 mark of the second half. 10 minutes with 0 points from the Sooners, that is impressive. If K-State can put in more defensive performances like that for the rest of the season, they will become one of the deadliest defenses in college basketball.
3.) Angel Rodriguez is a True Point Guard- While Bill Self threw his senior ball handler under the bus following their loss to Oklahoma State, Kansas State is sitting pretty with one of their best point guards in the past decade. While Rodriguez is just a So. he leads the Big 12 in assist to turnover ratio, and gives K-State that something special when he is on the court. Still prone to taking bad shots, Rodriguez has eliminated a lot of the Fr. mistakes he was known for last year. He came to K-State as a so called “clone” of Denis Clemente, but might leave with a reputation that would far overshadow Clemente.
4.) Warrior Spradling- With McGruder struggling, it was in fact Will Spradling that stepped up big for Kansas State. With his 12 points, Spradling lead K-State in scoring, but it was the timing of his points that were most impressive. Midway through the second half, Isaiah Cousins buried a top of the arc three, to pull within one of K-State. On the ensuing possession Spradling buried a cold blooded corner three after K-State drained the shot clock down to 6 seconds. Later in the half Spradling tipped in a Southwell 3 pointer to extend K-States lead to 8. Considering Spradling supposedly broke his nose against Texas and was benched for the majority of the first half, Spradling is turning into one of K-State’s biggest warriors.
5.) Back in the Title Race……….For Now- With K-States win, and KU’s loss the Cats are now just a game back of the Jayhawks in the race for first. Throw in a Baylor loss at Iowa State, and K-State are in sole possession of second. With 10 games remaining on the Big 12 slate, it is a longshot but K-State is now locked in a battle for the Big 12 crown. If K-State can take down Texas Tech and Iowa State in its next 2 games, they will go into Lawrence a game behind the Jayhawks. And if, K-State can shake its game woes to the Jayhawks K-State could find themselves halfway through the Big 12 slate tied for first in the conference.
While half of the season is yet to be played, K-State has found themselves exactly where they wanted to be at this point in the conference slate. 2nd in the conference with a chance, while it is a small chance, to unseat the Jayhawks at the top of the conference. If you haven’t already, buckle up cause the rest of the K-State season could be the most exciting in a very long time.