Wildcats stop Sooners; showdown next with Jayhawks
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
MANHATTAN – Rodney McGruder's broad shoulders carried Kansas State to a halftime lead.
By the time Oklahoma made a run at the Wildcats, he picked up some help along the way.
McGruder scored 20 points, including 11 during a pivotal three-minute first-period stretch, but it was the No. 16-ranked Wildcats' balance that brought them home with a key 69-60 victory Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum.
"In our offense, any given night anybody can have a big night because it really lets anybody get in the flow of it," said junior guard Will Spradling, one of four Wildcats in double figures with 15 points. "Anybody can get hot and it's nice that you don't have to rely on that one person who's hot at the end of the game because we've got so many players who are playing well and shooting well."
By Oklahoma its first Big 12 loss, the Wildcats improved to 15-2 with a 4-0 league record, setting up another battle for first place at 7 p.m. Saturday when No. 4-ranked Kansas Comes to town.
It Shane Southwell who kept the Wildcats close early until McGruder broke loose, then Spradling and Angel Rodriguez who jumped on board down the stretch. Spradling had nine of his 15 points after intermission and Rodriguez 10 of his 12 after starting 1 of 10 from the field.
"After that first 10 minutes they definitely outplayed us in a lot of ways," K-State coach Bruce Weber said of a 7-2 spurt that gave Oklahoma a 21-17 edge on Romero Osby's dunk off an inbounds play with 8:08 left in the first half. "But we jumped on Rod's back, made a bunch of threes – three in a row, I think. Shane hit one, got the crowd into it and then our defense really picked it up."
It was a pair of free throws with 6:50 left in the half that got McGruder going, and Adrian Diaz tied it at 21 with two more from the line. McGruder then hit three straight 3-pointers, with the second putting the Wildcats in front for good, 27-25.
K-State finished the half on an 11-2 run to lead 35-27 at the break.
"My teammates did a tremendous job screening for me and finding me, so I just hit the big shots," McGruder said. "They just kept coming back to me."
The last basked of the half was a Southwell 3-pointer, which gave him 10 of his 12 points in the period.
Oklahoma (12-4, 3-1) got on a run early in the second half, twice slicing the Wildcat lead to five on baskets by Amath M'Baye. But Spradling's 3-pointer pushed it back to 44-36 with 13:10 left and Jordan Henriquez's layup off a feed from Spradling got it to double digits at the 10:28 mark.
OU never got closer than six the rest of the way.
"We didn't take very good care of the ball, and that's entirely because of Kansas State," said OU coach Lon Kruger, whose Sooners turned the ball over 16-times – 11 in the first half. "I thought their defense was outstanding.
"They did a terrific job and dictated and we haven't had that much trouble handing the ball in the season, but we did today. I really like their team."
K-State outscored OU 26-6 off turnovers, which made up for a rough afternoon on the boards. Oklahoma outrebounded the Wildcats, 39-25, had a 20-5 advantage on second-chance points.
Guard Buddy Hield led OU with 10 rebounds. M'Baye and Osby each had 12 points and Pledger 10 to pace the Sooners offensively.
Oklahoma did make one last push with an 11-3 run that cut the deficit to 54-48 on Steven Pledger's 3-pointer with 5:05 left. But Spradling answered with a long jumper from the left corner.
Two M'Baye free throws and a 15-footer by Osby also closed it to six, but both times it was Rodriguez who responded, driving through traffic for one and knocking down a 3-pointer at the 2:40 mark that made it 61-52. Rodriguez was 3 of 4 in the last four minutes after his horrendous start and also finished with nine assists to just one turnover.
"I started being more aggressive and not settling for threes," Rodriguez said. "And I finally, finally, finally made some layups."
K-State outscored Oklahoma 15-7 from the free-throw line, including 11-7 in the second half. The Wildcats also finished were 10 of 24 from 3-point range while the Sooners made 3 of 11.