Kansas State entered Wednesday night’s game boasting a 34.25 point average margin of victory in their first four games of the season. The Delaware Blue Hens proved to be much stiffer competition as the Wildcats played their first game away from home.
Delaware held a small lead for most of the first seven minutes of the game and they would pull even a couple of times throughout but for the bulk of the final 33 minutes the score was in K-State’s favor. In the first half the boys from Manhattan led by as much as seven and pushed it to as much as eleven points in the second half. Ten points is where the margin stood with 6:28 to go and the Wildcats looked to have things under control. Then Kyle Anderson hit a three pointer for the Blue Hens and they started to cut into the lead. Behind Devon Saddler’s shooting they closed the gap to just two points with under a minute to play but couldn’t pull any closer thanks to a clutch jump shot by Nino Williams and Will Spradling hitting all four of his free throw attempts in the game’s final 30 seconds.
Kansas State went on to win 66-63 but Delaware gave them all they could handle.
Angel Rodriguez, Will Spradling and Thomas Gipson all pitched in 12 points to lead the team in scoring on the night. Rodriguez had a bit of an off night missing some open shots including all four of his three-point attempts. Gipson and Spradling however impressed and showed up in key points of the game. Both pulled in six rebounds while Spradling filled up the stat sheet with seven assists, two steals and a block in addition to the points.
For the Blue Hens it was the Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins show. Saddler, a junior guard out of Aberdeen, was 12-22 on the night and finished with 32 points, four rebounds and five assists. He carried the team on his back in the final minutes of the game and his performance comes as no surprise. He averaged 18.8 points per game last season and has been a consistent scoring option for Delaware so far in 2012. Hagins, a senior from Roanoke, was a beast inside while he was on the court. He scored 12 points, on 6-7 shooting, added 15 rebounds and looked like the best inteior player on the floor in the 27 minutes he played.
While the Wildcats came away with the victory, Delaware matched them for much of the game in terms of effort and execution. The outcome might have gone the other way were it not for severe cramping that kept Hagins on the bench for the bulk of the second half. Sophomore guard Jarvis Threatt also struggled with cramps in the latter part of the second half leaving the Blue Hens without two of their starters in the game’s final minutes.
Obviously you can look at the result and the name of their opponent and come away concerned about the Wildcats chances on Friday night. However, Kansas State did manage to hold on and win the game despite a crazy offensive performance by Devon Saddler.
Delaware is a very good team with two outstanding players in Hagins and of course Saddler. Both of those guys will certainly have the opportunity to play professionally overseas and one or both will probably get a look in the NBA at some point as well. In addition, the Blue Hens also have a decent supporting cast of players. This supporting cast had a rough night against the Wildcats but as a whole they figure to make some noise in the Colonial Athletic Association this year. The Blue Hens have certainly earned my respect.
The Wildcats, now 5-0 on the year, advance to the NIT Season Tipoff championship game which will be held Friday afternoon at 3:30 pm CT. #4 Michigan (4-0) will be their opponent making K-State an underdog for the first time this season. The Wolverines got past Pittsburgh (4-1) 67-62 last night to claim their place in the NIT final.
Delaware (2-2) will take on the Pitt Panthers on Friday in the NIT consolation game. Their game will tip at 1:30 pm CT.