K-State takes over No. 1 spot
K-State takes over No. 1 spot
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — The view from the top looks pretty good.
More important to the Kansas State Wildcats was the way they got there.
In a back-and-forth battle with Iowa State, the No. 11-ranked Wildcats put together a dominating final 12 minutes Saturday to not only avenge a previous loss to the Cyclones but also claim sole possession of the Big 12 lead with a 79-70 victory at Bramlage Coliseum.
"Just going out and giving it our all," senior guard Rodney McGruder said of the effort, which combined with Kansas' loss at Oklahoma left K-State (19-4) alone atop the league standings at 8-2. "Guys were all over.
"Defensively we had a couple of really great possessions — two shot clock violations in the first half. I just felt like we went out and competed and played hard-fought basketball."
That was especially evident during a pivotal 11-2 run that started on Martavious Irving's 3-pointer with 11:47 left to break a 50-50 tie. After Melvin Ejim countered with a dunk for Iowa State, McGruder nailed a left-wing jumper, Irving drained another three and McGruder made a second-chance 3-pointer to make it 61-52 at the 9:12 mark.
Iowa State turned the ball over twice during the stretch and 10 times in the second half, leading to 16 K-State points for the period. The Wildcats also had 17 second-chance points in the half to just five for the Cyclones, thanks to nine offensive rebounds.
"Turnovers and offensive rebounding," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said, shaking his head. "They got too many of them at key times down the stretch and it just seemed like every time a shot went up they got the rebound and it led to points.
"We got outscored 20-10 on second-chance points and 27-13 off turnovers. That's just too many to beat a great team on the road. That's not a good team, that's a great team."
Iowa State (16-7, 6-4), which answered every previous K-State turn, cut the deficit to 61-55 with 8:08 left on a driving layup by Tyrus McGee and Georges Niang's free throw, plus had two chances to trim it further. But another turnover and a missed jumper allowed the Wildcats to maintain control until Thomas Gipson scored inside and Angel Rodriguez converted a Shane Southwell steal on a fast break for the game's first double-digit advantage.
Following Niang's basket, Rodriguez drained a second-chance 3-pointer and Thomas Gipson converted a three-point play to make it 71-57 at the 4:53 mark. The Wildcats then made eight straight free throws — six by Rodriguez — in the last 2:24 to wrap things up.
McGruder led K-State with 22 points — 12 in the first half — and Rodriguez had 13 of his 20 with Gipson scoring 11 of his 16 after the break. Gipson also had all of his team-high seven rebounds in the closing 20 minutes.
K-State, which led 33-32 at the half, never trailed in the second period after Southwell's 3-pointer with 17:15 left made it 41-39, though Iowa State erased a seven-point deficit behind super sub Tyrus McGee, whose 3-pointer at the 12:14 mark tied it at 50.
"At this time of the year, when you start playing people twice, the players win the games," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "We might call a set play or do some little change here or there, something that might give you a little boost of momentum.
"But they have to make plays and we had a lot of guys step up."
Irving had six of his 10 points in the second half and Southwell all four of his assists without a turnover after intermission.
McGee, who did not score in the first half, hit 6 of 7 shots in the second and had 11 straight Iowa State points during one stretch to finish with 15. Korie Lucious led the Cyclones with 16 points and five assists while Ejim added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Iowa State out-rebounded the Wildcats 27-26 for the game but had just 10 second-half points to show for it.
K-State now heads to Lawrence tonight to play a wounded Kansas team that has dropped three straight. The Wildcats likely will be the higher ranked team, a rarity in Allen Fieldhouse.
"It feels good, but it's not the end of the Big 12, so we can't really think about that," McGruder said. "You've just got to go out and play every night because now we have the target on our back.
"We're in first place and guys want that spot, so we just have to go out every night and compete."