KSU slaps TCU, 79-68
KSU slaps TCU, 79-68
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — By the time Kansas State's three seniors said their farewells and the entire team circled the Bramlage Coliseum court in recognition of the crowd, all was well again.
A lackluster second-half performance against Big 12 whipping boy TCU was forgotten and all that mattered was that the No. 9-ranked Wildcats took care of business in their home finale Tuesday night with a 79-68 victory.
Seniors Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez padded their career victory total to 99 — the most by any class in school history — and the Wildcats broke the record for regular-season triumphs as they improved to 25-5. More importantly, they're now 14-3 in the Big 12 with one game left Saturday at Oklahoma State that could give them their first conference championship since 1977.
"It wasn't the prettiest game, but we got the W and that's all we care about," said sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez, who helped make sure of a happy ending with 21 points and 10 assists.
With K-State and Kansas tied for the league lead, the Wildcats must win in Stillwater, Okla., while the Jayhawks are at Baylor.
In addition to Rodriguez, the Wildcats got a big game from Irving, who started in place of injured Will Spradling and scored a season-high 15 points with five assists. Junior Shane Southwell also had 15 points, all in the first half, while McGruder scored 13 and Thomas Gipson 11.
"Now the whole thing (is), do they want more?" K-State coach Bruce Weber said.
The Wildcats never trailed after the opening minute and built a 15-point advantage with more than six minutes left in the first half, though they had to withstand a TCU rally early in the second period.
The Horned Frogs, down 42-27 at the break, scored the first eight points of the second half and got it to 52-48 when K-State was called for goaltending on guard Kyan Anderson's driving layup at the 11-minute mark.
Anderson led all scorers with 29 points for the Horned Frogs, who fell to 10-20 overall and 1-16 in the league.
"I think (K-State) probably missed a couple of shots, but then we were really inside-out oriented," TCU coach Trent Johnson said of the second-half rally, which also featured contributions from forwards Garlon Green, Devonta Abron and Adrick McKinney. "I know for a fact that this is as good as we've played on the road."
K-State slowly restored order the rest of the way, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Irving and Rodriguez to go up 58-48 with 10 minutes left, then answered a five-point spurt by Anderson with two Gipson inside baskets and a McGruder layup.
"We get up 15 and they didn't quit," Weber said of TCU. "Anderson was a handful to deal with tonight. He sure kept them in the game.
"We've been so good defensively and to give up 50 percent (shooting) and 46 from three, that's disappointing."
Though TCU shot 50 percent, K-State was even better at 54.4, knocking down 12 of 29 3-pointers. The Wildcats had 27 assists, including one on each of their 17 first-half baskets.
Irving, who came in averaging 4.6 points a game, got the start with Spradling recovering from a bruised sternum.
"I wasn't really thinking about starting," Irving said. "I was just trying to come in and do whatever I could for the team.
"It was my last game in Bramlage, that was probably motivation, and my family was here for the first time, and we're one step closer to getting a ring."
Weber said he challenged his underclassmen to help the seniors go out in style, something Rodriguez took to heart.
"Their mentality was the same, to win the basketball game," Rodriguez said of the seniors. "Coach always said to make the night special and not to let them down.
"I tried to go out there and make plays for them and I wanted them to have a memorable game."