It wasn’t pretty but for one half Kansas State managed to hang with #14 Gonzaga on Saturday night. In fact, early on they did more than just keep pace as the Cats held a lead for nearly 10 minutes and managed to push their advantage to five on a couple of occasions. With just under seven minutes to go in the half however, the Bulldogs took a lead they would not relinquish. The margin grew to six but the Wildcats were able to recover and close the gap to one going into the break on the back of a pair of three pointers from Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling.
The second half opened at 27-26 but the game didn’t feel that close. Just over 60 seconds in, the Bulldogs pushed their lead to five and steadily added to the margin for the bulk of the half. In the end Kansas State came up on the short end of the 68-52 final score.
They played ugly, they played out of sorts and very little came easy for them on the night but there’s little reason to rush to judgment and get concerned about the rest of the Wildcats season. Gonzaga is a quality team, and even though the game was played in Seattle instead of Spokane, they clearly had a home court advantage.
Kansas State was led by Rodriguez who added three assists and two steals to his 14 point night. Angel was the only player to score in double digits for the Cats. Will Spradling added eight on 2-6 shooting with both makes coming from behind the three point line. Shane Southwell came off the bench and had a solid game with seven points, two assists and two steals even though he was on the floor for only 19 minutes. He was one of the bright spots as Bruce Weber was looking for answers. Nine Wildcats played at least ten minutes but ultimately were done in by the fact that Rodney McGruder was simply off and largely MIA on the night. On the heels of 53 points and 25 rebounds in his three previous games, McGruder was just 1-9 from the floor and his four points against Gonzaga were a season low. He did pull down five rebounds to lead the team but he also turned the ball over five times. While Rodney’s lackluster game stands out based on what we expect from him, he was far from the only one to under perform. Thomas Gipson was held scoreless, as was Jordan Henriquez who continues to be an unproductive enigma. As a team they shot 33.3% missing 32 of their 48 shots.
Statistically many of the categories were close, but while the Wildcats struggled to make shots, Gonzaga shot 47.1% (24-51) on the night. The Bulldogs also had a player step up in a big way as seven foot junior Kelly Olynyk poured in 20 points on 10-13 shooting. Gary Bell Jr. and Elias Harris were also in double figures with elven and ten points respectively.
Kansas State (7-2) will host Texas Southern (1-9) on Tuesday and should have little trouble dealing with the SWAC based Tigers. After that another major test looms on the horizon as the Wildcats will face off with #5 Florida (7-1) on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Gonzaga (10-1) will host the Campbell Fighting Camels (3-7) on Wednesday before dipping back in to the Big 12 conference for opponents. The Bulldogs will host the Baylor Bears on December 28th and then travel to Oklahoma State to play the #24 Cowboys on New Year’s Eve.