On Saturday, 14 of the teams ranked in the AP Top-25 took the court, but there was only one place where two of those teams were matched up. That place was Fred Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas where the #25 Kansas State Wildcats played host to the #22 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both schools kicked off their conference schedule in style and the 73-67 Wildcat win is definitely KC Kingdom approved.
The win is certainly significant but of greater importance going forward, it would appear Rodney McGruder is starting to rediscover his perimeter game. He was 5-9 from three against the Cowboys and yesterday’s performance came on the heels of a 3-7 game against South Dakota. That gives McGruder eight threes on 16 attempts in his last two games after starting off 8-37 in the first twelve games for the Wildcats. Prior to this week, he had made multiple threes in a game just once, a 3-6 effort against George Washington on 12/8 and now he’s done it on back to back occasions.
Of course on Saturday his touch from the perimeter and his season-high 28 points were even more vital as Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling combined to have three times as many turnovers and fouls (12) than points (4). Together they put up a 0-9 goose egg on their shot attempts which included 0-6 from beyond the arc. Angel did however contribute eight assists before he fouled out of the game.
Stepping up to play sidekick to McGruder’s superhero was Nino Williams. The only other Wildcat to score in double digits, Nino scored 17 on 7-11 shooting in 21 minutes of action. No one really stood out on the glass but as a team they outrebounded Oklahoma State 35-27 as McGruder, Williams, Spradling and Shane Southwell each pulled down five boards and Thomas Gipson grabbed six to go along with his nine points.
For the Cowboys, two parts of their talent trio did their part. Guards Markel Brown (19) and Marcus Smart (25) combined to score 44 points on 14-25 from the floor but they were the only two in double figures. Together they also had ten rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Le’Bryan Nash only managed six points and three rebounds on 2-7 shooting. 6’11” senior Philip Jurick only played in 17 minutes due to foul trouble, but he still managed to lead all players in rebounds with seven.
Fresh off back-to-back losses to Top-25 opponents, Oklahoma State (10-3, 0-1) will look to bounce back against TCU (9-5, 0-1) at home on Wednesday. While the Horned Frogs have won nine games, they lost by nine in their Big 12 opener to Texas Tech. They are ranked 219th in RPI and their strength of schedule to date ranks 298th out of 347 Division I programs.
The Wildcats (12-2, 1-0) have pushed their RPI up to 40th and now have two Top-25 wins to offset their two Top-25 losses to Gonzaga and Michigan. Their next challenge will come next Saturday when they travel to Morgantown to play the 7-6 Mountaineers. West Virginia lost 67-57 to Oklahoma in its conference opener yesterday and even though they are just barely above 0.500 they have played the 34th toughest schedule in the nation so far. The Mountaineers are led by 6’10” junior Aaric Murray (10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and 6’1″ sophomore Juwan Staten (11.0 ppg, 3.2 apg). West Virginia ranks 302nd among Division I programs in field goal percentage.