Friday marked the regular season opener for many college basketball programs across the country including eight Big 12 schools. The conference came away with a perfect 8-0 record on the day and boasted an average margin of victory of 15.5 points. Of course an average is just that.
While most of the conference won their games comfortably – five of them by double digits – the Texas Longhorns were pushed to the edge and narrowly beat Fresno State 55-53. At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas State came away with a 85-52 win over North Dakota (formerly the Fighting Sioux, they won’t have a new nickname until 2015). The Wildcats 33 point margin was the largest in the conference and marked the start of the Bruce Weber era with a win.
North Dakota made a game of it in the first half as best they could and went into halftime down by nine. In the second half, the more athletic, more talented and deeper cats roster took control and outscored UND 49-25.
Despite playing just 15 minutes in the game, thanks to some early foul trouble, Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez paced the team in scoring with 13 points on 5-11 shooting. Thomas Gipson (13), Montavious Irving (11) and Will Spradling (10) also scored in double digits.
Weber was able to spread the out the playing time as nine Wildcats played at least 10 minutes in the game. One of those players was freshman forward DJ Johnson who pulled down 9 boards, blocked 4 shots and scored 4 points in 16 minutes of action. Rodney McGruder was just 3-12 from the floor and finished with 6 points.
Junior Troy Huff led North Dakota with 12 points but needed to take 15 shots and 4 FT attempts to get there. K-State held UND to 30.2% shooting in the game and was clearly the superior team across the board.
North Dakota will move on to face Crown College at home on Wednesday and then travel to the University of Northern Iowa for a game on the 17th. The “formerly Fighting Sioux” are playing their first season in the Big Sky Conference this year and will rely heavily on their four returning starters as they adapt to a new league. While the Wildcats wound up winning handily, North Dakota will certainly benefit from the experience they gained. K-State is easily the most talented team they will face all season.
As for the Wildcats, they will host the Lamar Cardinals out of the Southland Conference on Monday night in the NIT Tip-Off. They don’t figure to be seriously tested until December 15th when they take on the #21 Gonzaga Bulldogs in Seattle.